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New Deficit Working Group from a Taxpayer Perspective
Posted By:  - 04/20/11

Republican Congressional leaders have announced their appointees to the President's new deficit reduction working group.  The group, chaired by Vice President Joe Biden, is supposed to consist of 16 members.  It doesn't look like the group will end up being that large, however.  For those Members of Congress who have been appointed, how do they look from a taxpayer perspective?  The table below looks at the group, as currently announced, and their latest scores from NTU's Rating of Congress. 

Meetings are supposed to start on May 5th.

 

The President's New Deficit Group from a Taxpayer Perspective

Member
NTU Rates Congress Score
Chairman  
   Vice President Joe Biden
F*
Democrats
 
   Representative James Clyburn (SC)
   Representative Chris Van Hollen (MD)
   Senator Max Baucus (MT)
   Senator Daniel Inouye (HI)
Republicans
   Representative Eric Cantor (VA)
   Senator Jon Kyl (AZ)


* NTU Rates Congress data for all group members is from 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session) except for Vice Preisdent Biden. His last score in NTU Rates Congress was in 2008.

Fore more information about NTU's Rating of Congress, visit our Ratings page.

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Happy Tax Day 2011
Posted By:  - 04/18/11

Happy Tax Day!

 

In case you hadn't heard, the Tax Code is becoming more complex.  According to NTU's annual report on tax complexity, "the complexity of the Tax Code costs individual taxpayers $115.4 billion, thanks to the time burden and expenses of software, preparer fees, and other materials. The total time burden, including corporate filings, is 7.64 billion hours at a cost of $227.1 billion."  One reason for this rise in complexity is Congress's insertion on an additional 52,000 words into the code since last year.

While tax complexity is up, the outlook on U.S. government debt appears to be down.  According to Reuters, "Standard & Poor's slapped a negative outlook on the top-notch credit rating of the United States on Monday."

Feel like doing something about it?  Support NTU's efforts to end the Tax Code and advance a pro-taxpayer agenda that cuts spending, ensures fiscal responsibility, and is pro-economic growth.  Why not become a supporter todayTurn Tax Day into something positive!

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Tax Day Got You Down? Beef Up Your Spirits With Ayn Rand
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 04/14/11

Tomorrow, Americans will mark the day we dread: Tax Day. Traditionally on April 15th, the IRS extended the day where citizens are to submit their personal income tax forms and checks to April 18th. That doesn’t seem to make things any easier or any less unfair. Americans will spend millions of hours complying with the 44,000 pages and almost entirely incomprehensible system.

And the tax problem isn’t getting any better. The Tax Foundation recently released its annual Tax Freedom Day report -- an analysis of how many days Americans must work to pay for the cost of federal, state, and local governments – which fell three days later in 2011 than in 2010. Some taxpayers will be standing and shouting on the lawns of their state houses or traveling to Washington DC to call for improvements. Others will be doing something else: Watching a movie.

Opening nationally on April 15th, Atlas Shrugged Part 1 will debut in 299 theaters in 44 states. Based on the best-selling novel written by Ayn Rand, the plot reads like the classic set in slightly modern times (a few cell phones and computers don’t take away from the core principles). Check out the trailer below:

When it comes time to consider your options after sending more money to the government, think about joining fellow fans of Rand’s philosophy and ambition. All you have to do to stand up to big spenders and the Wesley Mouch’s of the world is sit down and enjoy a film 54 years in the making.

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Tax Freedom Day Nothing to Celebrate This Year
Posted By:  - 04/12/11

Happy Tax Freedom Day! Ok, maybe I shouldn’t have said “happy.” Today is a made-up holiday (expect a Hallmark card soon) marking the day when the average American has earned enough in wages to pay off their tax bill to the federal, state, and local government.

A would-be joyous occasion, if it didn’t take more than three months of work to accomplish. In fact, Tax Freedom Day is three days later than it was in 2012, in large part due to new taxes in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the return of the death tax.

It’s depressing enough to think the average American has to work 101 days to earn enough to pay off their tax burden, but even that doesn’t represent the true cost of government. The Tax Foundation, the group responsible for doing the calculations behind Tax Freedom Day, only includes taxes collected in their math, completely ignoring the total level of government spending. At some point those deficits must be paid back, either in reduced government services relative to what we pay or higher taxes.

When we look at government spending, rather than the tax burden, the date gets pushed back even further. We’re talking way back. If the government were to collect enough taxes to pay for its reckless spending binge, Tax Freedom Day would not arrive until May 23, meaning the average American would have to work an incredible 41 more days to pay off their total tax burden.

Unless something is done to get government’s spending problem under control, Tax Freedom Day will continue to fall later, and later, in the year. Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other government spending will continue to shoot upwards, posing an ever-greater threat to taxpayers as deficits become unsustainable.

Fortunately, House Republicans, led by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, have a plan to solve these problems (Read what NTU had to say about their plan, a “Path to Prosperity” HERE). While not perfect, the Republican’s budget proposal would put us on a path toward a more fiscally sustainable future without placing additional burdens on taxpayers. Who knows, if we pass a “Path to Prosperity”, Tax Freedom Day may actually come early enough in the year to be worth celebration. As of now, I’ll save the money I’d spend on a Hallmark card for my tax bill.

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Durbin to Introduce Internet Sales Tax Bill
Posted By:  - 04/12/11

This just in:  According to CNet News.com, Illinois Senator Dick Dubrin plans to introduce a bill that would require busineses to collect and remit sales tax on remote sales.  Wyoming Senator Mike Enzi is expected to co-sponsor the legislation. 

 

In case you were wondering, NTU has a history of opposing such legislation at the federal and state levels.

 

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Bills Hiring 100,000 Teaching Assistants and Cutting $39 Billion In Latest Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 03/30/11

Tab Insert

NTUF is hot on the heels of recently introduced legislation with cost estimates and descriptions in the most recent Taxpayer’s Tab. While releasing our final BillTally report for the 111th Congress in mid-March, we remained vigilant in getting you the bills sponsored and supported in the 112th Congress.

This week’s Most Expensive Bill would authorize the Department of Education to spend up to $1 billion for each of the next five years to employ 100,000 new teaching assistants. The paraprofessionals would help teachers with administrative support as well as help students with one-on-one instruction. The bill’s goal is to achieve a lower ratio of school workers to students. School districts who already have met the requirement (mentioned in the Tab) may use funds to help currently employed aides in obtaining teaching licenses or furthering their professional development.

Bills in Issue 10 of The Taxpayer’s Tab include:

  • HR 646, A bill to authorize the appropriation of funds to be used to recruit, hire, and train 100,000 new classroom paraprofessionals in order to improve educational achievement for children
  • S 164, Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011
  • HR 998/S 555, Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2011
  • S 253, A bill to establish a commission to ensure a suitable observance of the centennial of World War I, and to designate memorials to the service of men and women of the United States in World War I
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Big Ten Budgets
Posted By:  - 03/17/11

There is some big news coming out of the Big Ten, but it has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with budgets. The news is that the governors of the states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have released their first budgets, all of which do not use tax increases to balance their books.

In Michigan, Governor Rick “One Tough Nerd” Snyder kicked things off by releasing a budget that aims to close a $1.5 billion deficit without tax hikes. The bulk of his budget is reductions in spending to keep the budget manageable, as businesses and families in Michigan have done to weather this recession. Additionally, Snyder, a former executive with Gateway computers, aims to reform the state’s tax code to lower rates for Michiganders and attract businesses. Snyder proposes to lower the personal income tax, saving taxpayers $122 million over the next two years. He also wants to eliminate the burdensome Michigan Business Tax and replace it with a corporate tax set at a rate of six percent. 

Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich, who like any good Buckeye is not going to be outdone by a Wolverine, released a two year budget earlier this week to close an $8 billion deficit by reducing aid to cities, reforming Medicaid, requiring merit pay for teachers, and selling state prisons to private operators. To reduce the costs for cities that lose aid, Kasich would make it easier for local governments to share services and reform wage and bargaining laws for public workers. Additionally, Kasich wants to convert Ohio’s state-run liquor distribution business into a public-private partnership. Kasich, a former Member of Congress who once served as chair of the House Budget Committee, knows a thing or two about how budgets work and what it takes to get them adopted.

Rounding out Big Budget News from the Big Ten is Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Corbett released a budget that did not spare any government function from reform to close a $5 billion budget deficit. Perhaps the biggest change in the budget – and in Pennsylvania – is a reduction in basic education to the 2008-2009 spending level, a government function that has not seen a reduction in 20 years. Further, Corbett, a former prosecutor who hails from the Western part of the Commonwealth, proposes to give more control over school budgets and the property tax rates that pay for schools to, respectively, local school boards and voters.

Budgets are all about priorities for the state governors. According to their budgets, the priorities for the governors of these three very important and large states are getting their fiscal houses in order. All of these governors are telling us that they believe, correctly, the path to fiscal sustainability is through lower taxes and more manageable budgets, not higher taxes to finance more spending on big government. But while governors are important people, they are only one player on the field we know as government. The legislatures will have the final say on these budgets. If history is any guide, the legislatures will have some “suggestions” (aka higher taxes, more spending, etc.). Let’s hope that these governors do not yield to their opponents because this budget game is one

But for starters, these three governors and their budgets can’t be beat. If the state budget season were a basketball tournament, all of these states would deserve to get number one seeds.

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Tax Increase Terminates Scandal Plagued Mayor
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 03/16/11

Two issues that the National Taxpayers Union has long worked on demonstrated just how huge a political impact they can have yesterday.

Tax hikes and out-of-touch public employee compensation led Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez to his downfall as his constituents voted at a nearly 90% clip to recall him. In the name of plugging a budget gap, the two-term Mayor pushed a property tax increase on the people of Miami-Dade County in the middle of the lingering recession. Yet, he then handed his aides and other public employees increased salaries.

Alvarez further abused taxpayer resources by using public employees to campaign for him, rather than stay at work.

Ultimately, this is a reminder that raising taxes in the midst of recession will cause major political blowback. Public servants, be it executives or legislators, must realize we have an overspending problem in America, not a revenue problem. Taxpayers should not serve as a bailout fund to insulate unrealistically compensated public servants and public employee unions from the economic challenges that citizens face on a daily basis.

You can read more on this story in the Miami Herald.

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Tobacco Tax Craziness
Posted By:  - 03/11/11

Once again, it’s budget season in state capitols across the country. And, once again, we see some lawmakers and interest groups pushing proposals to raise tax rates on cigarettes and other tobacco products under the guise of a “cure all” for the state’s fiscal woes, despite their well-known problems that argue against enactment.

Right now, we are being told that these sin tax hikes are a “Win, Win, Win” for the states. It seems as though every day these days, we see new poll results – typically funded by proponents of the tax hikes – informing us that “the vast majority” of taxpayers support higher cigarette and tobacco taxes, as opposed to budget cuts, to save the state.

Unfortunately, governors and lawmakers across the country have their blinders on, and are taking up these proposals. In Connecticut, Governor Dan Malloy has proposed a 40 cent per pack cigarette tax increase as part of his budget. Georgia’s tax reform commission proposed a 37 cent per pack tax hike; some want a $1 per pack increase! A senior lawmaker in Idaho wants to raise the state’s cigarette tax $1.25 per pack. Even Oklahoma is trying to get in on the tax hike game by considering a bill that would give economic development power to local government, which includes regulation of tobacco through new fees. West Virginia also has been trying, but thus far failing, to move a major tax hike through its legislature. Now, tax hike advocates are pushing opinion polls and proposals to raise taxes in North Carolina, Nebraska, and Montana, in some cases substantially. But that’s not all: there are now rumors that Illinois could try again to raise its cigarette tax (I guess raising Illinoisans’ income tax by 67% just isn’t enough when you fail to reduce spending).

But all of these proponents of cigarette and tobacco tax hikes are consciously ignoring the well-known problems associated with these sin taxes. Since the poor are more likely to smoke, tobacco taxes tend be paid most by the poor rather than the rich, Mercedes-driving country club members who work on Wall Street that seem to be the target of every tax hike since the dawn of time. Higher tobacco taxes are also costly to retailers, especially convenience stores, who count on cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and other products for as much as a third of their sales. What’s worse, several states that raised their tobacco taxes have reported shortfalls. I’m not sure how anyone thinks a state would “win” by raising a tax that drives business and tax revenue out of the state. But perhaps the most alarming development is that these problems are not new discoveres. In fact, we here at NTU (and countless others in the fiscal policy world) have been highlighting these problems for years. Yet, here we are again, making the same arguments because tax hike proponents and lawmakers cannot (or perhaps do not) wish to acknowledge reality.

Albert Einstein has been quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Given these organizations’ and lawmakers continued desire to raise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco products despite the well known problems with these types of taxes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise why the public thinks most politicians are crazy.

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Join us for a Tele-Townhall with Paul Ryan!
Posted By: Andrew Moylan - 03/07/11

 

In the time it takes you to read this blog post, the federal government will have racked up an additional $10 million in debt that will be passed along in higher burdens on our children and grandchildren. Learn about what conservatives in Congress are doing it to stop it by joining us for a tele-townhall event with Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee and the innovative fiscal conservative behind the “Roadmap for America’s Future.” NTU President Duane Parde will be hosting the 30 minute call with Dick Armey, Chairman of FreedomWorks, and you’re invited to hear the latest breaking news and ask questions! Join us and thousands of other activists on the call at 6pm Eastern time Wednesday, March 9th by dialing 1-888-886-6603, extension 16307#.

Our national debt has reached a staggering $14 trillion, and our deficit alone from this year is as big as the entire budget of 1998. Congress has been working on a spending bill for the rest of 2011, but even modest spending reductions amounting to less than four cents out of every dollar of overspending have been rejected by Washington liberals. In the coming weeks we’ll begin debate on the budget for 2012, so it has never been more important for you to make your voice heard on Capitol Hill.

Our tele-townhall will be a great chance for you to hear from a Representative Paul Ryan, who as the head of the House Budget Committee is right on the front lines of the battle to reduce spending and create a sustainable budget. Join us and learn about not only the dangers our debt poses, but also what conservatives in Congress plan on doing to stop it. At 6pm Eastern time Wednesday, March 9th, dial 1-888-886-6603, extension 16307# to join this important call.

We hope you’ll join us as we get the latest information on the upcoming showdown over spending.

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