Americans for Tax Reform
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.
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 and County
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.
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.
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:
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.
Grover Norquist chats with Stuart Varney about the problems with the Marketplace Fairness Act. The interview was conducted before the passage of the measure; however, Norquist discusses why the measure creates a problem for online retailers, which could be left to comply with tax laws in 45 states and more than 9,600 taxing jurisdictions.
The Senate moved closer to passing the Internet sales tax on Thursday. The chamber had already started debate on the measure, dubbed the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” but the vote last week bypassed any hope of a filibuster. Some conservative groups are increasing their efforts in opposition to the tax.
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), headed by Grover Norquist, presented the constitutional case against the Internet sales tax. The case is in response to recent comments by David French, a lobbyist for the National Retail Federation, who said, “The industry is evolving very rapidly, and the law today is a 20th-century interpretation of an 18th-century document that is holding back the entire retail industry as it adapts to 21st-century consumer preferences and demand.”
“The Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution affirms that states cannot tax across their borders. Physical presence within a state’s boundaries is required for a state to be able to tax a business, a consumer, or a sale,” John Kartch wrote at ATR’s blog in response to French. “The Constitution is clear: a person or business must be physically present within a state’s borders in order to be taxed. By suggesting the Constitution is outdated, Internet tax pushers align themselves with the rhetoric of far-left judicial activists.”
On Friday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation backed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Lee (R-UT) that would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require that law enforcement obtain a warrant before it can search Americans’ e-mails and other online file:
A Senate committee today backed sweeping privacy protections requiring the government, for the first time, to get a probable-cause warrant to obtain e-mail and other content stored in the cloud.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the package on a voice vote after about 30 minutes of debate, and sent the measure to the Senate floor, where it faces an uncertain future.
The legislation, (.pdf) sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the committee’s chair, and Michael S. Lee (R-Utah) nullifies a provision of federal law allowing the authorities to acquire a suspect’s e-mail or other stored content from an internet service provider without showing probable cause that a crime was committed if the content is 180 days or older.
Under the current law, the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the government can obtain e-mail without a warrant as long as the data has been stored on a third-party server — the cloud — for 180 days or more. The government only needs to show, often via an administrative subpoena, that it has “reasonable grounds to believe” the information would be useful to an investigation.
Written by Ryan Ellis, Tax Policy Director at Americans for Tax Reform. Posted with permission from Americans for Tax Reform.
What are the top ten tax hikes in President Obama’s new budget?
There are literally dozens of new tax increases in the FY 2014 Obama budget. In total, they increase taxes by nearly $1 trillion over the next decade. They would permanently bring the federal tax burden to 20 percent of economic output, a level only reached in one year since World War II (FY 2000, when the economy was roaring and tax revenues were pouring into Washington as a result).
Below are the top ten tax increases in President Obama’s budget (all numbers are over a decade):
1. Chained CPI. The budget would change the definition of inflation for all federal budget purposes, including federal tax provisions. Because tax brackets and other tax items are indexed to inflation, slowing down their growth is an income tax increase. This is a tax increase for all Americans who pay income tax, including middle class Americans. In the past, Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that enacted “chained CPI” would be a $100 billion tax increase