Americans for Tax Reform

#IAmUnitedLiberty: Grover Norquist’s quest to reduce the size of government and keep your taxes low

Note: This is one in a series of profiles of UL contributors and friends and how they became involved in the “liberty movement.” Share your story on Twitter using the hashtag #IAmUnitedLiberty.

Grover Norquist is one of the most well-known figures in conservative politics. Americans for Tax Reform, the organization he founded in 1985, has become a powerhouse in politics, driving the conversation on taxes, labor policy, and regulation.

United Liberty caught up with Norquist last weekend at FreedomFest in Las Vegas and asked him how he got involved in politics and the conservative movement as well as where he thinks the movement is headed over the next few years.

“I was active early on in politics. Back in [the 1970s], I worked on the Nixon campaign because I was concerned about the Soviet Union, and I just stayed involved in politics. If you decide to get involved early, it just kind of stays with you,” Norquist told United Liberty.” It’s kind of like learning to play tennis. Once you’ve learned, whenever there’s a tennis game, you join. If you’re involved in politics, every time there’s an election or a fight, you get in.”

Norquist explained that the central issue he’s working on at the moment is reducing the size and scope of government, especially at the state-level where there are plenty of opportunities due to the fact that Republicans control nearly half of the state legislatures.

Conservatives to Congress: “Spend one dollar less”

A new strategy has emerged from conservative groups over the debt ceiling as they emerge from a fractured fight over the government shutdown. The message to Congress: spend one dollar less than last year.

The coalition of 20 groups, first reported by National Review, has written a letter to lawmakers urging them to take caution in their approach on the debt ceiling and government funding as House and Senate tackling the budget.

“The undersigned public policy organizations are writing to you today about the upcoming debt ceiling debate and our belief that Congress has a moral obligation to pursue additional spending reductions before taking on additional debt,” wrote the organizations in the letter to members of Congress.

“Specifically, we propose the following: If Washington wants to take on more debt, isn’t it fair that they at least be forced to spend One Dollar Less next year than they’re spending this year?” the letter continued. “Most families are reducing their budgets by far more than one dollar, shouldn’t Washington at least do this much? The American people certainly think so.”

Signers to the letter include Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Andrew Moylan of the R Street Institute, Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and Phil Kerpen of American Commitment.

RNC Rules Fight is a Defining Moment for the GOP

Republican Party

This week, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will hold its spring meeting in Los Angeles in what could be a defining moment for the party. Many committee members are looking to overturn rules that were adopted at last year’s Republican National Convention which disenfranchised many grassroots delegates.

Back in August, Dean Clancy of FreedomWorks explained the rule changes at length, noting the profound affect they have on the process by “shift[ing] power from the state parties and the grassroots to the RNC and the GOP presidential nominee.”

There were two specific changes — Rule 12 and Rule 16 — pushed by Ben Ginsberg at the behest of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Rule 12 allowed the RNC to change its rules at any time or any place in between party conventions. Clancy called this move “unprecedented,” and explained that the change gives the RNC the ability to completely ignore the convention on a whim, if it so chooses.

Rule 16 is also problematic because it targets delegates who vote their conscience in convention. For example, if somone ran as a delegate and pledged to vote for Mitt Romney, but then finds out something unsavory about him and they switched to another candidate; they would have been stripped of their delegate status.

While there may be states that require delegates to vote a certain way, they’re typically not bound to a particular presidential candidate. This rule change was clearly aimed at Ron Paul supporters and conservative activists skeptical of Romney’s record — forcing them to choose party over principle — and it help gives GOP insiders more leverage at picking the nominee.

Tax Bite Leaves Flacco Second Best Paid in NFL

Written by Matt Blumenfeld, State Policy Associate at Americans for Tax Reform. Posted with permission from Americans for Tax Reform.

As reported this week, Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens have agreed to a six-year, $120.6 million contract making the star quarterback the highest-paid player in NFL history, earning an estimated $20.1 million per year. But being the “highest paid player” and earning the most after tax pay are two very different things.

By choosing to remain a Raven, Flacco is now set to pay a combined marginal income tax rate of 51.98 percent. This overwhelming tax rate is composed of the federal, Maryland, and Baltimore County income tax rate, as well as the Medicare tax. And that’s excluding his “jock tax” liability for away games – play the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, pay Massachusetts income tax on earnings for that game - and other taxes levied against him such as Maryland’s property tax.

Given that Flacco is coming off of his best season, the franchise quarterback could have commanded a similar contract from any other team in the league while keeping a greater percentage of his contract. Four of the nine no-income-tax states have professional teams in need of the Super Bowl MVP’s caliber and skill.

State

Team

Federal Income

Tax Burden

State and County

Congress must reform high-skilled worker visa system

immigrants

The renewed debate over immigration reform has led to some very strong opinions, but one particular issue that has been lost in the mix is the need for more high-skilled workers in the United States.

The visa system for high-skilled workers — known as H-1B visas or STEM visas — is in dire need of modernization. This system allows businesses to temorarily employ foreign workers who have college degrees in various fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The system, however, limits the number of workers who can obtain these visas to 65,000 per year, meaning that many high-skilled workers see employment in other countries instead of waiting to come to the United States.

Along with a number of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) recently introduced legislation — the Immigration Innovation Act (also known as the I-Squared Act) — that would bring a much needed overhaul to the H-1B visa system and more economic benefit to the United States.

The Immigration Innovation Act would increase the annual cap on high-skilled workers who can obtain H-1B visas from 65,000 to 115,000 and also provide a manner of flexibility that would allow the cap to be raised even higher to meet labor demand inside the United States. The legislation would also remove the cap for high-skilled workers with advanced degrees, which is currently limited to 20,000 per year.

A coalition of freedom-minded groups — including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute — have endorsed the plan.

Dear Media: This Isn’t About Grover Norquist

Grover Norquist is under fire. Unjustly.

With Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Peter King and others seemingly deserting Grover Norquist and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge created by his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, media outlets across the spectrum are declaring that the GOP is “Over Grover” and that his vicelike grip of eternal dominance on the GOP might not be so eternal after all. We have images like this one, showing Republican leaders bowing to him as if he is a god. And on and on and on.

What it really is, though, is just another round of misinformation, wrong data, and interpretations based on faulty premises. Yet another sideshow that is completely missing the point, the real debate we should be having in DC.

The Road To Tax Reform: More Potholes Than I Like

Some panels are off in nowhere, little rooms here and there. Other panels are in giant ballrooms, like the Marshall Ballroom, second largest to the Marriott where all the major speakers are, well, speaking. (Perhaps “blustering” is a better word.) And sometimes, those ballrooms were not full. But then maybe I got there early.

It was certainly an illustrious panel, which explained why it began to fill up shortly after it officially began. It was chaired by Grover Norquist himself, President of Americans for Tax Reforms, and the legendary proponent of the “No New Taxes” Pledge he encouraged (some on the left would say “forced”) politicians to take up. To his right was Lew Uhler , chair of the National Tax Limitation Committee, and to his left were Benjamin Powell of the Independent Institute and Phil Kerpen, Vice President for Policy, of Americans For Prosperity. I went because the subtitle implied there was going to be a debate between supporters of the Flat Tax, Fair Tax, a VAT, and maybe even 9-9-9—and that plan’s author, Rich Lowrie, did show up in the audience. But there really wasn’t any debate on that front.

And let’s face it, what kind of debate can we really have on taxes? Even the left admits that the tax code we have now is horrifically complex, prone to corruption and gaming the system. Though they disagree about “broadening the base and lowering the rates,” I don’t think any sane American, left, right, or center, can look at the miasma we have now and say, “Yeah, it works.” For whom?

There were some interesting points to be made, but ultimately I didn’t think the solutions that Norquist posed during question time were all that good. But let’s focus on the interesting first:

Obama’s health care proposal increases taxes on middle class

As you probably know, President Barack Obama released his health care proposal yesterday (you can read it here), outlining what he sees as “reform,” in attempt to bridge the divide between the House and Senate versions of the bill:

The White House today unveiled President Obama’s health care overhaul bill, which it says will expand health insurance to 31 million more Americans and reduce the federal budget deficit by $100 billion in the next 10 years.

The White House also released the changes Obama wants to see in the Senate Democratic health care bill. Even before its release, the White House’s plan had already met with fierce Republican resistance.
[…]
Administration officials call the health care bill a “starting point” point for Thursday’s televised, bipartisan discussions on health care overhaul.

“I think it’s a starting point in as much… as Republicans come to Thursday’s meeting with constructive proposals that they’re willing to discuss,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said today.

Obama made sure to pander to his constituencies, such as labors unions, and while the Cornhusker Kickback is gone, other vote buying provisions, such as the Louisiana Purchase and the Medicaid provision for Florida, are still included in the proposal.

This is ridiculous: Americans worked until July 6 to pay Washington’s spending tab

Each year, Americans across the nation anxiously wait for the moment they can declare themselves done with working enough days, weeks and months to have paid their taxes and their share of the U.S. regulatory spending for that given year.

In 2014, this particular day fell on July 6th.

You see, Independence Day may have been celebrated on the 4th of July, but the average American only became free to earn his or her own money after the 6th.

As Americans for Tax Reform recently pointed out, the Cost of Government Day (COGD) didn’t fall in July until President Obama took office. Up until the moment Barack Obama had been sworn in, Americans celebrated their COGD before June 27th.

Federal spending may have shown modest signs of a decrease since 2013, for which Americans for Tax Reform thanked Republicans in Washington, but federal regulatory costs have added an extra burden to the national debt.

As it stands, government costs 51 percent of the GDP, meaning that most average workers must give 121 days of their working lives only to cover spending. Americans must work for at least 65 days to cover the increasing costs of regulations.

Ludwig von Mises wrote in his famous book of analytical criticism of socialism entitled Socialism that “state interference in economic life (…) has done nothing but destroy economic life.” He then insightfully concluded his statement by saying: “prohibitions and regulations have by their general obstructive tendency fostered the growth of the spirit of wastefulness.”

Coalition urges Senate to pass REINS Act

A broad coalition of conservative and free market groups are urging members of the Senate to support a measure — the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act,” better known as the REINS Act — that would require congressional approval of executive-level agency rules that will have a costly economic impact.

“This bill restores legislative control and accountability to the federal regulatory process by providing for meaningful congressional oversight over new regulations agencies impose on the American people,” wrote the coalition of organizations to individual members of the Senate.

“It requires both houses of Congress to approve any proposed ‘major rule’ — that is, any rule likely to affect the economy by $100 million or more — before such a rule goes into effect,” the letter continues. “The REINS Act already passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a sizeable margin. It is now time for the Senate to follow suit.”

Policymakers and bureaucrats tend not to be concerned about the implications of rules created by executive-level agencies, like the EPA, for example. But these regulations create a costly compliance burden for consumers and business, which are already facing tremendous strains on their finances as the economy has limped along after the recession, with next to no accountability and only marginal oversight.

In March, the Competitive Enterprise Institute released its annual regulatory snapshot, Ten Thousand Commandments, which found that compliance cost with these rules and regulation cost $1.8 trillion in 2012, roughly $14,678 per American family. Those compliance costs, the coalition letter notes, “was more than half of all federal outlays ($3.4 trillion)” for that year.

 


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