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Pundits can talk your ear off about what they think, politicians can endlessly tell you how their plans will fix things, and professors can give you their views on what they feel is necessary. Luckily there are real numbers to compare these groups, and their claims, with reality. Economic indicators and statistics can be manipulated to fit arguments and talking points but you’ll always find similarities. Factors such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and average income always has the US on the positive side of the scale, while countries like North Korea almost always fall on the failing, or at best struggling, side of global economic comparisons. The difference? Americans can do what they wish, when they want, and in a way they so choose. North Koreas are told how to act, what to say, and even how to think. Americans have significantly more freedoms than, say, North Koreans. This has been our publicized “secret to success.” Here’s hoping more people understand that the more thick the U.S. Code gets with minute instructions and limits to how we handle our money, and thereby our ideas and rights, the thinner our achievements will be in long-term economic development and happiness.
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The "S" Doesn't Stand for Security
In case you didn't know the "S" in IRS stands for service not security. A recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration indicates that the IRS could certainly use a healthy dose of security. As Robert W. Wood writes at Forbes.com, "I recently asked if your IRS data is at risk. I suggested it might not be, but I didn’t tell you to start worrying. Now I’m not so sure."
Here's a very disturbing finding: "100% of IRS Databases TIGTA tested are vulnerable to hackers." At least it's not more than 100 percent. Fortunately, I suppose, "IRS has agreed with TIGTA’s recommendations and is taking steps to develop strategies to deal with these issues." Given that hackers have hit Sony, the U.S. Senate, and the CIA recently, does anyone think that the IRS will develop and implement its strategic plan in time to prevent the loss of taxpayer data?2 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Odds & Ends for June 23
A few odds and ends, things that I've been meaning to get to, and a few things that I've missed and overlooked in my inbox.
Via ACTA's Tim Wise: Cartoonist Scott Adams suggests that the U.S. should create a stupidity tax in an effort to "reduce its prevalence over time." Adams suggests that such an idea is impractical: "No elected official could support a tax on stupidity." I would suggest that politicians are unlikely to make Tax Code changes that are going to lead to dramatically higher tax bills for themselves.
Tim also comments on a story from the Tax Prof Blog where the "IRS allowed 'millions in erroneous car deductions to prisoners, dead people, kid,' citing a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration." Check out Tim's post for all of the details.
Perhaps I should have titled this post Tim Wise blogging. A couple of thoughtful quotations that Tim was kind enough to pass along for you to ponder over the approaching weekend:
"[T]he illusion that by means of progressive taxation the burden can be shifted substantially onto the shoulders of the wealthy has been the chief reason why . . . the masses have come to accept a much heavier load than they would have done otherwise."
"Nothing is more calculated to make a demagogue popular than a constantly reiterated demand for heavy taxes on the rich. Capital levies and high income taxes on the larger incomes are extraordinarily popular with the masses, who do not have to pay them."
A huge (and belated) thank you to Jim Agresti of justfacts.com for including NTUF's BillTally research in their discussion of the national debt. They have a number of helpful charts, tables, and footnotes so that you know where everything comes from. Please check it out.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The fix is in, my friends. Speculation on Capitol Hill runs rampant that House Leadership is actively undermining the prospects for passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution, effectively eliminating the most powerful tool we have to enforce budgeting discipline into the future. While all 47 Senate Republicans co-sponsored a strong BBA that included a spending limit and a supermajority threshold for tax increases, House Leadership has been either ambivalent or subtly hostile towards real structural budget reform. In interviews, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he isn't interested in "gimmicks," which many regarded as a backhanded comment about a BBA or a statutory spending cap.
This bad-mouthing seems to be working. The National Journal surveyed Members of Congress about what they expected from a debt ceiling agreement and only 39% of Republicans thought a BBA would be a part of the deal. For some perspective a recent poll found that 81% of Republican voters support a BBA, so I think it's safe to say that elected Rs appear to not be reflecting the will of their constituents very well.
And now word is leaking that Republican House leaders seem to be rushing through a BBA not in order to actually pass it, but to give it a speedy euthanasia and get it out of their hair. Just this morning, I received an email from a House staffer who said "Leadership is planning on bringing H.J. Res. 1 to the floor for a vote sometime over the next two weeks to delegitimize the BBA and separate it from the debt ceiling vote."
H.J. Res. 1 is the version of a BBA that was sped through a House Judiciary Committee markup last Friday with little notice. NTU has been advocating for a BBA for 40 years and I was one of just three people invited to personally testify in its favor at a House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution hearing last month, yet I heard NOTHING about the proposed markup until the morning it was occurring. That's not how a leadership team that's trying to build support for something operates, it's how you try to sneak something through quickly without a lot of scrutiny.
What's so peculiar about this turn of events is that a BBA is not some controversial too-conservative provision toxic to moderate Members' reelection prospects. This isn't, for example, Medicare reform, where dozens of Republican members had to swallow hard and cast the right vote in support knowing that Democrats would demagogue the issue mercilessly. Simply stated, NOBODY will have to "walk the plank" to vote for a BBA knowing that attack ads await them on the other side. It's a rare combination of good politics AND good policy, yet some Republicans are trying to kill it.
The next few weeks will tell you all you need to know about whether or not Republican leaders actually heard the message that was sent last November. Rushing a Balanced Budget Amendment through without allowing grassroots BBA supporters across the country to weigh in and build support would be a pretty clear indication of their true colors. If leaders in the House of Representatives schedule a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment in the month of June, I'd consider it the equivalent of a big middle finger to the millions of fiscal conservatives who helped create the majority they now enjoy.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: What do Snooki, a Former Marine, and NTU have in common?
Today's Roundup of Taxpayer News!
NTU is working with lawmakers to repeal the tanning tax, which has already led to the loss of 24,000 jobs.
GM’s CEO Daniel Akerson came out in support of higher gas taxes as well as raising taxes on wealthy Americans. He said that higher gas taxes will help GM and the auto industry continue its rebound from the previous economic crisis. What it is it with people on the government dole?0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Pete Sepp Talks Taxes on the Ed Morrissey Show from HotAir.com
Pete joins the show at around the 1 hour 3 minute mark.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Fox Business: Property Taxes Rising in a Down Housing Market
Fox Business network recently cited National Taxpayers Union data on property taxes in a story that exposed how property taxes have not declined despite the downward spiral in real estate values (Video available HERE). As NTU points out, this is due in large part to the fact 60% of properties are over-assessed.
Housing values have dropped about 18%, but property taxes continue to rise by 7% every year. Property taxes now account for over three quarters of local and state government tax revenue, and (surprise!) are not always accurately assessed by government officials.
Fox’s Gerry Willis offered some key tips to find out if your property is over-assessed:
Avoid becoming one of the 60% of taxpayers whose property is over-assessed. In this down housing market, government officials are in no rush to update your property value. For more tips on reducing your property tax burden, check out NTU’s publication How to Fight Property Taxes.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Folks traveling these days are faced with higher gas prices, more airport security fees, and static rail schedules, but new bus companies like Bolt and Mega Bus have utilized new technologies and business models to drive down the cost and hassle of getting around. If I wanted to take a mental health day from researching our federal budget (taxing as it is bloated), I could have paid a measly $20 for a round trip to New York City from Washington DC. Aside from the long gone Skybus airline, you can’t get any better than that.
The companies get by with rock bottom prices because they don’t have investments in bus depots, heavy union contracts, or out of touch leadership. They pick you up from a designated location -- a parking lot or street curb -- and get you where you’re going in a reasonable amount of time. My trip to NYC would take four hours in morning traffic.
However, the deals might be coming to an end. The DC government plans to impose a public space rental fee of $80,000 (or more) per year on these companies. This is a city government that already taxes its citizens and businesses similar to the nation’s biggest tax-hogs: Tied with California in the Tax Foundation’s Tax Freedom Day and with Washington State in the Americans for Tax Reform’s Cost of Government Day. In as little as a month, consumers will take another blow to their purchasing power because of government taxing and regulation.
This is likely not the end of the story. The nearby states of Virginia and Maryland have an opportunity to become new stop points for the bus companies. Whether they would impose a similar tax or leave the companies to serve their customers remains to be seen.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
For your consideration, the Atlas Network -- an organization connecting and assisting free-market groups on an international scale -- has produced The Morality of Profit. The video features Executive Vice President Tom Palmer asking whether profits are stolen from other people or are created through value generation. Centering on Bill Gates, we are asked if the concept of “giving back” is accurate after making voluntary transactions that are beneficial to both parties. People paid a few hundred dollars for a product that greatly increased connectivity, accuracy, and efficiency.
Amidst a continuing recession (or at least continuing unemployment and problems with liquidity), the government continues to ask business leaders for more tax revenue and slices of economic freedom for status quo results. Most recently, CEOs from top oil companies were questioned by the Senate Finance Committee on their finances. Little was said about the 1.5 million people employed by the petroleum industry or how narrow the profit margin is in the oil business. Tax dollar-hungry Senators like Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia said the leaders and to a degree their companies are out of touch with regular Americans and, seemingly as a result, they ought to give more money to a system literally out of cash.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Obama's "Debt Failsafe Trigger" Just Code for Tax Hikes
Apple’s now-ubiquitous catchphrase, “there’s an app for that,” is one of the truer advertising pitches I’ve heard in a long time. There really is an app for literally everything, from the useful, like Shazam which allows you to identify any song that’s playing, to the addictive (I’m looking at you Angry Birds), to the downright absurd, does anyone really need Pocket Girlfriend? Now the Obama Administration has decided to follow much the marketing strategy as Apple. Problem? There’s a commission for that!
Yes, in Washington there is simply no problem that cannot be solved by talking about it…a lot. This has become no clearer than in President Obama’s “attempt” to eliminate our deficit. First, he created a bipartisan deficit commission to identify savings in the budget and come up with a plan to achieve fiscal sustainability. They came up with a plan. Obama promptly put together a budget that completely ignored it. Fast forward six months and we’re facing the same problems. Obama’s solution? A commission, this time to be chaired by Vice President Joe Biden.
Apparently when President Obama doesn’t like his hand he simply demands that the deck be reshuffled and dealt again.
The new commission is off to an ominous start. The Hill reports
“Assistant House Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-SC), who will participate in debt-reduction talks with Vice President Joe Biden Thursday, said Wednesday that a debt failsafe trigger is a “good starting point” for a compromise over the raising of the nation’s debt ceiling.”
The abstrusely-named “debt failsafe trigger” is a clever maneuver to raise taxes, even for Washington’s standards. The provision would specify certain targets for deficit reduction, which if not met, would trigger spending cuts and tax increases. What’s especially clever is that it will allow taxes to be raised automatically, without a vote!
Dick Morris cleverly labeled it “the immaculate conception tax increase.” And it could be just the miracle Democrats need to institute higher taxes without having to answer to already-overburdened taxpayers.
If you haven’t noticed Washington has not exactly been a paragon of fiscal conservatism over the past several decades. Every year they say they’ll spend less yet deficits and debt have steadily grown. Given that reality, a scheme that automatically raises taxes if Washington continue its spending spree seems like a surefire way to take the burden off politicians and place it squarely on the backs of taxpayers.
Not only is it a direct path to higher taxes, it prevents taxpayers from knowing who to blame. Since taxes will be raised automatically, and not by vote, legislators are protected from having to explain why they chose to raise taxes. As the anger of taxpayers shoots through the roof, Washington can collectively throw its hands in the air and chant “who me?”
Yes you! Americans won’t be fooled by this blatant attempt to appear concerned about the deficit while simultaneously funding increases in the size of government. The “debt failsafe trigger” may sound like a sophisticated silver-bullet that can cure all of Washington’s ills, but I’m not buying. Not even if it was only 99 cents in the App Store.17 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts