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Profiles in Liberty: Gordon Miller
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/17/14

NTUF’s Research Interns are focusing their energies on the BillTally project, which scores EVERY bill introduced in Congress for changes in federal spending. Through our Profiles in Liberty series, we’re presenting each of our summer interns and focusing on the work they’re doing. This week’s edition features Gordon Miller!

NTUF Research Intern Gordon Miller

Gordon hails from Atmore, Alabama. This past spring he graduated from Troy University in Alabama, where he obtained a degree in Music Education and a minor in Leadership Studies. While at Troy, Gordon spent most of his time honing his musical talents (culminating in a semester spent as a student teacher in Troy City Schools), but a holistic approach to education lead him to pursue his interest in both public policy and economics. He helped start a chapter of Students for Liberty at Troy during his time there. 

What has been your favorite part of living and working in the DC area?

GM: The political business of this city is something that I'm not yet used to, and for me, it's quite exciting. The wealth of opportunities present here invigorates and inspires me, as there are so many things in which I could become involved.

What are your career goals?

GM: Establish myself within the public policy and educational arenas. Working for NTUF provides me with the opportunity to expose myself to some of the work required in related jobs and helps me connect with individuals that will help to ensure my future success. 

What do you do for fun?

GM: Outside of the office, I enjoy reading, watching TV, playing video games, exploring the area as much as I can, and spending time with my family and friends. I also go to as many social events as I can, both for the fun and the opportunity to network with various individuals. 

How did you become interested in politics?

GM: Politics has been an interest of mine for several years, but I did not become heavily involved until a couple of years ago when I was approached by a friend who asked me if I would help to start a chapter of Students for Liberty. After assisting with that, I immersed myself in various educational campaigns, conferences, activist events, and group discussions.

What are some of your life achievements which you are particularly proud of?

GM: Over the last 5 years, I have had the opportunity to travel to the British Isles and Germany. While there, I met several influential individuals, overcame various personal challenges, and broadened my horizons. In addition, I feel like I left my mark at Troy University with both my participation in the Sound of the South Marching Band and my contributions towards establishing Students for Liberty on campus.

What does a typical day at NTUF look like for you?

GM: I have really enjoyed working for NTUF. The atmosphere is fantastic and the staff members are awesome. They are very concerned with helping us interns get off to the best start in the DC area. A typical day for me starts out with a cup of coffee, and then I dive into BillTally research, where I analyze bills to figure out how they might affect federal spending (whether that means an increase in expenditures or budgetary savings). 

What has been the most interesting bill you have researched at NTUF?

GM: A nuclear disarmament bill. It is a rather controversial bill, but it was incredibly fascinating to research, partly due to the level of controversy surrounding it. In addition, it provided me with insight into how difficult it can be to obtain figures on a bill that is so heavily connected to the Department of Defense.

What advice do you have for future interns?

Do as much as you possibly can for as many people as you possibly can. This mentality and spirit of humility will benefit everyone involved.

Stay tuned to see an interview with Daniel Simmons, coming out later this week! Be sure to check out the previous interview with Communications Intern Sam Jordan.

Interested in learning about the other interns working for the Foundation this summer? Want to help the NTUF interns? Check out this post.

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.

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Blurred Lines: Official and Political Travel
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 06/16/14

President Obama was in California this past weekend to speak at UC Irvine's commencement ceremony, and while he was in the Golden State, he made time to stop by a fundraising event in Laguna Beach as well. We know that the cost to fly Air Force One from D.C. to Los Angeles is about $2.3 million, but what we don't know is how much of the bill taxpayers will have to cover.

Online publication Zocalo Public Square features a post I contributed concerning that topic. While travel for official and unofficial purposes has long been a perk of holding office, Presidents have a uniquely influential impact when it comes to political fundraising -- and taxpayers deserve to have more information about what those trips could cost them.

Under the current rules, the cost to fly the President to official functions is covered by the U.S. government; groups hosting "unofficial" political events must reimburse the government for the President's transit. However, it can be difficult to determine how much of the trip's total cost taxpayers are responsible for, especially when the White House schedules both official and unofficial events during the same trip. As mentioned in the piece:

"...the rules are so vague that not even researchers who study them full-time can describe them. In a 2012 report, the Congressional Research Service stated that it's 'unclear how the White House designates travel that is not directly related to a governmental or political function.' ... This makes it easy for schedulers to add a sprinkling of 'official' business to any trip, and it opens the door for any party to game the system. Ultimately, this is to the detriment of every American's bank account as well as an electoral process that's becoming increasingly expensive and time-consuming."

Check out the full post on Zocalo Public Square.

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NYC Mayor Finding Skeptics in the Business Sector; DC Debates New Budget Proposal that Sparked “Yoga Tax” Talk- The Late Edition, June 16 2014
Posted By: Jihun Han - 06/16/14

Today's Taxpayer News!

Despite New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent tax proposal, some businesses are still concerned about the Mayor’s overall agenda that includes an effort to increase the minimum wage. The Wall Street Journal has more!

The Washington D.C. Council is proposing a new budget that would expand the sales tax to a number of things including gym memberships. Some are soundly against the proposal, although the so-called “yoga” tax is just one aspect of a package that would cut the city’s income tax rates. Proponents believe this income tax will be more than enough to offset the added sales tax.

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Refinancing Student Loans
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 06/15/14

Taxpayer's Tab Update

Last week, the Senate considered a proposal from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) -- backed by the Obama Administration -- that would have given the government authority to refinance student loans at lower fixed rates, including some loans issued by private lenders. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that had the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act been passed, it would have allowed the government to assume $60 billion in new private loans, and refinance an additional $460 billion of existing federal direct student loans, at a net cost of about $16.9 billion per year. The legislation also included a new $72 billion tax on those earning over $1 million per year in order to finance the provisions.

The actual cost of that program could have panned out very differently in reality though, mainly because of government accounting methods that make some loan programs appear drastically cheaper than they would be according to other methodologies. How much of a difference can that accounting make? Find out in the latest issue of The Taxpayer's Tab.

Also featured this week:

  • Healthcare Fraud: NTUF examined the growing complexity of the U.S. healthcare system, which makes it susceptible to fraud. Bogus payments are estimated to cost taxpayers as much as $272 billion.
  • Most Friended: Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014, which is an omnibus bill that includes several titles to reauthorize and extend various hunting, fishing, and conservation programs.
  • Wildcard: Congressman Raul Ruiz's (D-CA) Renewable Jobs Act would authorize $10 million per year to fund a pilot program dedicated to providing on-the-job training for positions in the renewable energy industry.

For more on these issues and the research NTUF is compiling on them, check out the latest edition of The Taxpayer's Tab.

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Profiles in Liberty: Sam Jordan
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/14/14

For a week, summer interns have been working hard in the NTUF research and communications departments to bring the latest information to Americans. The Profiles in Liberty series will show the faces behind the work that makes it to NTUF’s Taxpayer’s Tab e-newsletter, the Government Bytes blog, and the comprehensive BillTally reports. First up is communications intern Sam Jordan!

NTUF Communications Intern Sam JordanSam has been writing for Government Bytes, creating graphics, and researching current events.  She grew up in Salina, Kansas, and currently attends George Mason University, where she is majoring in Economics with a minor in Russian and Eurasian Studies.  At GMU, she is heavily involved in the Forensics Team (a competitive speech team), lending her communications and leadership skills as an executive board member and tournament director.

What has been your favorite part of living and working in the DC area?

SJ: I feel very connected and involved in current events working and living in the D.C. area. I have most enjoyed the opportunity to network with people my age who also have a strong conviction to pursue careers in the liberty movement.

Who are your personal heroes?

SJ: My parents. My dad is the best leader I know and first introduced me to the liberty movement. My mother, a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, showed me through her own actions that I could become anything I wanted to be if I worked hard.

How did you become interested in politics?

SJ: I read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and became passionate about individual liberty.

What projects have you been working on while at NTUF so far?

SJ: In the brief time that I have spent at NTUF, I have already composed two blog posts. The first, “The Curious Case of Whistleblower Kevin Downing,” reported on the retaliation whistleblower Kevin Downing experienced from the Department of Labor after he discovered wasteful governmental spending. The second post, “Olympic-Size Spending”, reports on the possible impact to all taxpayers if Washington, D.C. hosts the Olympic Games in 2024.  Additionally, I have been working to create graphics which will be used to help communicate the Foundation’s research.   

What have you learned that has most interested you while working for NTUF so far?

SJ: I find it interesting how bipartisan some issues are. Both sides of the aisle have well-developed ideas to reform the tax system and the federal budget process. The difficulty is in aligning those different reforms into a plan most can agree on.

Why did you choose to work at NTUF?

SJ: I chose to work at NTUF because I am very interested in having a career in the liberty movement. National Taxpayers Union Foundation is committed to educating citizens about how tax policies and spending programs affect their future.  By working for NTUF, not only will I learn more about the tax code, but I will also gain the relevant experience necessary for applying my degree in Economics to real life.

Stay tuned to Government Bytes to see more of Sam’s work!

Interested in learning about the other interns working for the Foundation this summer?  Want to help the NTUF interns?  Check out this post.

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.

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An End to IRS Taxpayer Abuse? 9 Most Insane Ex-Im Bank Loans! - Speaking of Taxpayers, June 13
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 06/13/14

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The IRS has instituted a "Taxpayer Bill of Rights", so, should we pop the corks? We review our latest Buzzfeed piece which highlights some wild taxpayer-backed loans abroad. Plus, Lee Schalk has a state roundup, including tax threats and minimum wage fails. Plus, the Outrage of the Week!

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House Republicans Scramble for Leadership Posts
Posted By: Brandon Arnold - 06/12/14

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) primary loss on Tuesday has turned the Washington political landscape upside-down. Soon after his surprising defeat, Cantor announced that he will step down from his role as the 2nd highest ranking member of the House in late July. The election to fill his leadership post will take place on June 19 and the race is already in full swing.

As of now, it appears from media reports that the top contenders for Majority Leader are current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX). Rumors suggest that Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) or Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) could also enter the race – especially if Sessions decides to back out.

While there are many factors that will help determine the outcome of this contest, one key element is the candidates’ fiscal policy credentials.  To that end, NTU’s annual Rating of Congress sheds a great deal of light on how consistently lawmakers have supported lower taxes and limited government. That’s because NTU’s scorecard incorporates every single vote that affects taxes, spending, and debt.

NTU generally does not make endorsements in Congressional leadership contests. However, given the reputation of our rating, we have received inquiries on how the potential candidates performed.

Here are the results:

Candidate 2012 Score 2012 Grade 2012 Rank Lifetime Average Score*
McCarthy 72% B- 144 79%
Sessions 81% B+ 69 74%
Labrador 90% A 5 90%
Jordan 87% A 19 88%

*Lifetime average score is the arithmetic mean of each year’s score. Please note that grading criteria changes from year to year.

If McCarthy wins, he will vacate the position of Majority Whip, which is the 3rd ranking leadership spot in the House. Currently vying for that role are Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-LA), Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL), who is currently the chief deputy whip, and Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN).  

As with the Majority Leader race, more candidates could enter the picture at any time, but here’s how the current candidates stack up on NTU’s scorecard:

Candidate 2012 Score 2012 Grade 2012 Rank Lifetime Average Score*
Scalise 82% B+ 57 84%
Roskam 69% C+ 170 78%
Stutzman 86% A 24 87%

*Lifetime average score is the arithmetic mean of each year’s score. Please note that grading criteria changes from year to year.

For more information on NTU’s rankings, please click here. Our 2013 rankings will be released early this summer.

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Minimum Wage Hike Spells Trouble for Seattle Workers and Businesses
Posted By: Melodie Bowler - 06/12/14

Last week, members of the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage in The Emerald City to $15 per hour, from the already-highest-in-the-nation state rate of $9.32 per hour. The new rate will be phased in over a seven year period starting on April 1, 2015, based on the size of each business (smaller businesses will be on a longer phase-in time table). Additionally, businesses will be permitted to pay lower training wages to teenagers.

Unfortunately, the Seattle City Council ignored the fact that minimum wage hikes typically fail to raise overall wage levels and can reduce overall employment by making unskilled and young workers more expensive to hire. Furthermore, businesses are likely to pass on the cost of a minimum wage increase to their customers.

We can already see repercussions from a similar minimum wage increase in neighboring SeaTac, where the minimum wage soared to $15 on January 1, 2014, after squeaking by on the November ballot. One parking lot in SeaTac added a “living wage surcharge” of 99 cents per day to the price of parking to cover the increased cost of labor. The nearby Clarion Hotel closed its full-service restaurant abruptly, causing the loss of fifteen jobs. A hotel cleaning lady explained that her benefits were slashed, including 401K, health insurance, paid vacation, free food, and free parking.

Restaurateurs in Seattle have already begun to speak up. Jeremy Hardy, owner of Coastal Kitchen and Mioposto, suggested that the minimum wage increase is bad news for the Seattle economy, stating, “We are going to adjust using all of the tools at our disposal; pricing, reducing menu offerings, look at operating hours, reducing labor where we can and certainly not opening another business in our beloved Seattle.” Not only will entrepreneurs pause or perhaps not even consider opening new businesses in Seattle, but one restaurant owner believes customers will start spending less as well. Salaried workers unaffected by the wage increase will see local prices rise without increases in their own compensation. Angela Stowell, CFO and owner of Ethan Stowell restaurants, worries “that our guests will start spending less and going out less as they adjust to higher prices and their own wage compression.” To make matters worse, Brendan McGill, owner of Hitchcock and Hitchcock Deli, points out, “The public sentiment is shifting to ‘why tip? They already make $15 an hour.’ …I wouldn't expect service to improve around town.”

The intended purpose of the minimum wage increase is to improve the lives of low-wage, unskilled workers. Yet for some workers in SeaTac, we have already seen that the opposite is true. As Seattle’s wage hike begins next year, concerned taxpayers throughout the country will be watching closely. Hopefully, city and state officials considering a similar wage increase will take note and avoid making the same mistake.

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Japan to Leave US in the Dust on Corporate Income Tax; Energy Taxes Again?- The Late Edition, June 12 2014
Posted By: Jihun Han - 06/12/14

Today's Taxpayer News!

In the Washington Times today, NTU’s Executive Vice President Pete Sepp argued that a “tax extenders” deal in Congress should not come with a tax increase on the energy industry. Read here!

Japan has made progress on cutting its corporate income tax rate, though it can still be as high as 36 percent in some circumstances. Not for long though, as they are set to clarify plans that would see the rate cut to under 30 percent, and perhaps to 25 percent, in the coming years. Reuters has the story! 

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Relief for Veterans Waiting on VA? THUD! & More - On Capitol Hill, June 11
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 06/11/14

On Capitol Hill is back, because Congress is back, and not a week goes by where your tax dollars aren't on the line.

This week: An attempt to help vets waiting on the VA, a tax & spend student loan proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, THUD, & more!

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