An Open Letter To Ways And Means

Welcome back to Washington and Happy New Year

As you return to the business of the House Committee on Ways and Means, you and your colleagues will, in many ways, determine the direction of our nation by the decisions you will soon make on fundamental tax reform.

You have a clear and distinct choice to make. You can continue to pander to the special interests that will forever hold you hostage to their gluttonous demands, or you can break from this insidious cycle and fully represent the will of the people who elected you.

If you choose to continue in the bondage of special interest slavery, the demands they exact will rise to levels that even you cannot imagine. Once the fatted calf becomes addicted to the feed trough, its’ appetite becomes insatiable.

Contrast this to the people who elected you who simply want to pay their fair share of taxes without the fear and intimidation of an agency that continues to be used as a political weapon.

Even the IRS’s own watchdog, Nina Olson, stated in her just published annual report, “Public trust in [IRS] fairness and impartiality was called into question because of reports the IRS subjected certain applicants for tax exempt status to greater review based on political-sounding games.”

Sadly, Olson’s only remedy is an IRS generated U.S. taxpayer Bill of Rights. By the way, didn’t you already try this in 1988 when Congress passed the first of three Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

To Olson’s suggestion, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t this a little like the fox guarding the hen house; just like the U.S. Justice Department appointing Barbara Bosserman to lead the IRS targeting investigation?

fox guards henhouse

Silly me, I am sure any individual who shelled out over $6,000 in donations to the Obama campaign will show total impartiality during a criminal probe involving conservative organizations.

The bottom line is this – the American people want a simple and fair system of taxation without all the drama, theatrics and corruption. They want the fox to leave the hen house and they want their representatives to put a stop to the longstanding reign of terror by the IRS.

The FairTax® Plan does this and more.

Reduced to its most basic terms, the FairTax eliminates taxes on wages while taxing wealth and borrowing when spent. It eliminates the income/payroll tax system and replaces it with a single rate tax on consumption.

More importantly, it is fair, simple and universal in application – no exceptions, no exclusions, and no more special interests feeding at the trough.  And, it fosters economic growth and efficiency while fully funding the government. 

You will soon have a decision to make on fundamental tax reform.

Option 1: You tinker with the current system, call it major reform and continue in the bondage of special interests.  With this option the American people continue as the losers.

Option 2: You represent the will of the people who elected you and enact HR 25, The FairTax Act, freeing them from the bondage of an out-of-control IRS and a gobbledygook tax code that is fast approaching 100,000 pages. With this option, the American people have a fair and simple tax code that also eliminates the yearly tax return nightmare that has already begun.

Which decision will you make? Perhaps you can draw inspiration from General Robert E. Lee who once said, “You have only always to do what is right. It will become easier by practice, and you enjoy in the midst of your trials the pleasure of an approving conscience.”

Your electorate awaits your decision. Remember, they too have decisions to make in November 2014.

Florida Public Service Commission caves to FP&L smart meter demands

As expected the Florida Public Service Commission approved the staff recommendation today to allow FP&L to charge $95 upfront and $13 per month to those customers who wish to opt out of a smart meter.

My apologies, I did not know you could call in and make verbal public comments at this meeting over the phone. One citizen did that.

The OPC did little but suggest a reduced fee of $75 upfront and $10/month and based it off of California. They also recommended two paragraph’s be included in the Order. It was read quickly and I did not fully understand the significance, if any, of those inclusions. But basically OPC supported the tariff and the fee being charged.

Health and medical exemptions were never even discussed. No discussion of the definition of a non-communicating meter occurred, nor any of the other issues brought up to mitigate costs such as self-readings.

FP&L did admit that the fee needed to be and was designed to be high enough to disincentivize opt outs!

When questioned, they claimed customers who had an analog could keep it but also said there were NO savings by people opting out (which is not true since they will not be spending money putting on a smart meter). They also re-enforced that at any time if a customer wants to switch from an analog to a smart meter that there would be NO fee. Those customers refusing to pay the fees will be put into their normal collection process for non-payment. They admitted that the $77 visit charge may not occur for all customers but some customer may have 5 visits and it is meant to be an average assumption (so much for cost based and cost causer!).

If you wish to watch the meeting, it will be archived at this link and Item #6 starts at the 57 minute mark: http://www.floridapsc.com/agendas/audiovideo/index.aspx

FP&L will be revising their tariff and resubmitting today to reflect the staff recommendations. They indicated that they expected this service to become effective in May 2014 (I assume that is when they will start charging us).

If no protest is filed, the Order will become effective in 21 days.

The Very Green Keystone Pipeline Delay

Stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from carrying Canadian oil, a major trading partner and ally of the United States, is just part of a much larger environmental agenda aimed at preventing access to this energy source, but it is larger in scope; stopping or slowing the development of America’s huge reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas.

Just before 2013 came to an end, the Sierra Club sent out an email claiming that “2014 is shaping up to be a defining year for the environment” warning that “Superstorms, wildfires, and mass destruction from climate change threaten us all. Future generations and endangered species like wolves and bear are counting on us.” This is pure fear-mongering. In 2013, all the factors mentioned were in decline.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, here are just some of the predictions that were made:

“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.” — Kenneth Watt, ecologist

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” — George Wald, Harvard Biologist

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.” — Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.” — New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

On December 29, 2013, the Sierra Club was celebrating the shutdown of the 150th coal-fired plant that provided electricity. They want more solar and wind power, the least reliable source of the smallest production of electricity. They applauded the Obama administration’s plans to restrict any drilling for oil in the Arctic and “proposed new EPA rules on carbon pollution.” There is no carbon pollution.

According to Wikipedia, “Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium and oxygen. It is present in all known life forms, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. This abundance, together with the unique diversity of organic compounds and their unusual polymer-forming ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth make this element the chemical basis of all known life. (emphasis added).

Calling carbon a threat to human life is so absurd that it defies known science, but that was exactly the basis for all the “global warming” lies, claiming that carbon dioxide would warm the Earth when it plays no such role in the atmosphere. Suggesting that humans have any role in “climate change” is the basis for the legislative and regulatory objectives of the Obama administration that declared a “war on coal” when it is in reality a war on electricity production, the most essential element of life in America.

My friend, David Rothbard, the president of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) a free market think tank, led a team to visit to Fort McMurray, Canada in 2012 to see first-hand the tar sands from which oil is being extracted. “I have to tell you,” he said, “not just by the technology being used to bring much-needed oil up to the surface in situ with hardly a trace of environmental impact…but much more so, by the infectious spirit of opportunity in this bustling frontier town. To me, Ft. McMurray is a symbol of the kind of progress and prosperity that can come when people are able to discover and access abundant natural resources in a way that serves society and protects the environment.”

What the Greens see in Northern Alberta and in Nebraska that is enjoying an economic boom thanks to the fracking technology that produces more natural gas are people having more wealth and freedom, more jobs, more energy for the rest of us.

Pipelines in US

Pipelines in United States.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

“The nation’s more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines safely deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. They are essential: the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation. It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars every day.”

“Pipeline systems are the safest means to move these products. The federal government rededicated itself to pipeline safety in 2006 when the PIPES Act was signed. It mandates new methods and makes commitments for new technologies to manage the integrity of the nation’s pipelines and raise the bar on pipeline safety.”

So why has President Obama, for five years now, blocked the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline to America’s Gulf Coast where many of the nation’s refineries are located? Because it represents jobs and further economic development.

The AFL-CIO wants to see Keystone XL built. “The American construction industry has suffered greatly. The national unemployment rate for construction workers remains about 13% and far too many of our members have lost homes and are struggling to put food on the table. For many members of our unions, Keystone XL is not just a pipeline; it is, in the most literal sense, a life line.”

Typical of Obama’s lies was his view of the Keystone XL pipeline when he said “They keep on talking about this—an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs—that’s not a jobs plan.” His own State Department estimated that 42,000 jobs would result from the construction of the pipeline.

Obama does not want more jobs. He wants more Americans on the unemployment dole and on food stamps. He doesn’t want more electricity, more gas and diesel for our vehicles. He wants to destroy the nation’s healthcare system. He wants to undermine the economic growth of America in every way he can.

And thanks to the Democratic Party and the millions who still believe in “global warming” and “climate change” he was elected to a second term in 2012.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Obama: America’s clear and present danger

Yesterday President Obama repeated former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi outrageous claim that “unemployment benefits stimulate our economy.” There are economists — left-leaning –who will say people receiving unemployment benefits will go out and buy things and therefore boost the economy and job. If that’s the case, then why not just the government print money and gives us all a stipend to go out and spend it?

Pure and simple, liberal progressives are advocating for wealth redistribution and trickle up poverty. They believe instead of having tax, regulatory, and monetary policies that enable a thriving free market system, we should expand the welfare nanny-state.

It’s purely political, and not as President Obama tries to persuade, moral. The goal is to create such a state of depravity and hopelessness for a broad swath of Americans who are forced into the desperate state of grateful dependency upon Obama and his ilk.

It’s the textbook Alinsky tactic of demonizing the opposition as heartless, uncaring, mean and evil. And hapless Republicans fall for the scheme, as six Republicans in the Senate joined Democrats voting for cloture on the extension of benefits, instead of having a press conference immediately following the President’s staged act and calling him out.

Conservatives must demonstrate the “emotional” message of the liberal progressives is empty, It is a message aimed at enslavement of the indomitable American individual entrepreneurial spirit into a collective vision of shared misery.

It is a failed message, not of empowerment but rather abject servitude to government. It punishes the productivity of hard working Americans and redistributes their earnings in order to create and expand a dedicated voting electorate.

How else can you explain the exorbitant growth of poverty, food stamps — and if you believe unemployment in America is truly 7 percent, there’s some real nice farm land just west of me here in Palm Beach Gardens.

Yesterday, President Obama clearly admitted that going into year six of his presidency, he is a failure. Because If the economy is recovering and unemployment so low, then why do we need to extend unemployment benefits as an emergency? Every year this “emergency” seems to arise.

The progressive socialist economic vision for America resembles our inner cities — look at Detroit, look at the several California cities on the verge of collapse — heck look at the State of California.

Far more troubling is the liberals who don’t want to participate in these failed city and state disasters flee, but in migrating they take their failed ideology with them. Florida beware! Thus, like locusts, liberal progressives in their disingenuous nature and belief in spreading the wealth actually spread desolation, depravity, destruction, despondence, and eventually depression.

Consider the recent piece in Rolling Stone advocating America’s young people support communism, social utopianism, and the idea that there should be guaranteed work for everybody, Social Security for all, universal land ownership and, a public bank in every state.

Then why should anyone go to school and get an education? Just sit back and await your entitlement. There’s only once place where you find those five points — in the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, and promoted by progressive administrations in America.

I once had the privilege to travel through “Checkpoint Charlie” and see the other side, in East Berlin. I saw the emptiness in the eyes of the people. The horrible state of the roads and buildings. The lack of choice and the facade of prosperity and the great divide created — this is what we fought against, and now we want it here?

President Obama is a frontman, a well selected salesman for an ideology that has never been successful anywhere in the world. He’s just another in the long list of Marxist/socialist “cool” sounding despots who have given us mass graves and national collapse.

Progressive socialists are banking on the ignorance and despair of the people, and the inability of a coherent message from an opposition that fears demonization.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, President Barack Hussein Obama represents a clear and present danger to this Constitutional Republic we call America. And we have only two options as a nation: take a stand or perish.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Robert Jeffress Claims Obama’s Policies Are Paving the Way for a Future World Dictator

Bipartisan Critic Turns His Gaze Toward Obama

Limbaugh: Obama Fiddles While the Economy Burns

The “War on Poverty” is lost – time to pull out!

“When President Johnson launched the War on Poverty on Jan. 8, 1964, he pledged ‘not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.’ Sadly, the half-century legacy of Johnson’s Great Society has not lived up to that noble goal,” writes Jennifer Mitchell from the Heritage Foundation.

The War on Poverty has not done justice to the poor. Our responsibility to our neighbors in need demands more: a redirection of public policy and a commitment from each of us to do what we can in our own communities.

Mitchell notes, “Despite spending nearly $20 trillion since the War on Poverty began, the poverty rate remains nearly as high today as it was in the mid-1960s. Today, government spends nearly $1 trillion annually on 80 federal means-tested programs providing cash, food, housing, medical care and targeted social services for poor and low-income Americans. Clearly, policymakers can’t hide behind reams of programs and billions in spending and declare they’ve done their duty to the poor. Good intentions aren’t enough.”

We need to change the character of public assistance. That means redirecting incentives in federal welfare programs. “Sometimes those incentives encourage dependence, even for generations,” said Robert L. Woodson, Sr., founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprisetestifying before the Senate Budget Committee last year. Woodson sees firsthand the effects of these programs as he works with community leaders across the country to empower those in need to overcome adversity.

On the other hand, the right kind of incentives can “help people gain personal responsibility and pursue their dreams,” observes Woodson. Transforming incentives to promote personal responsibility has a dramatic effect: After the 1996 welfare reform began to require recipients to work or prepare for work, welfare rolls fell by more than half, and poverty rates among single mothers and black children fell to historic lows. But that reform redirected the incentives of only one program among more than 80 federal welfare programs.

As Woodson concludes:

So if we want to help those in need, we need to ask: Is the approach we are taking to relieve poverty by what we call the safety net actually helping or is it injuring with the helping hand?

In addition to promoting work, any serious effort on behalf of those in need must get serious about restoring marriage, America’s most important inoculation against child poverty. Children born and raised outside of marriage are more than five times more likely to experience poverty than their peers raised in intact families.

When the War on Poverty began, 8 percent of all children in America were born outside marriage. Since the mid-’60s, unwed childbearing has skyrocketed to more than 40 percent of all births, and from 25 percent to about 73 percent among black children. A child born and raised outside marriage is more than five times more likely to experience poverty than a child raised in an intact family.

Rebuilding a culture of marriage calls for policy reform to reduce marriage penalties in welfare programs. It also requires the kind of relational restoration that must happen on a personal level, through the work of churches and community initiatives like First Things First in Chattanooga, TN, that build relational skills. These and other efforts to overcome poverty should engage us personally in the effort to help restore lives, families, and communities.

Promoting work and restoring marriage “would be a better battle plan for eradicating poverty in America than spending more money on failed programs,” writes Heritage Senior Research Fellow Robert Rector in today’s Wall Street Journal, “And it would help accomplish LBJ’s objective to ‘replace their despair with opportunity.’”

RELATED COLUMN: Poverty level under Obama breaks 50-year record

Big Florida Brother Has Spoken – FP&L Customers will Comply or Pay Up!

In a show of support for the Florida Public Service Commission’s (FPSC) Staff Recommendations regarding Florida Power and Light’s (FP&L’s) petition for smart meter opt-out fees, Commissioner Brise stated “It helps the system as a whole by making sure there is a sufficient incentive that everyone can move in the direction of smart meters.” Ken Rubin of FP&L previously commented at the hearing that the fee needed to be around $100 (high enough) to create a “sufficient disincentive to opt out”.

The Commission never addressed the written comments from the public that dealt with health issues caused by the smart meters. Not one question was raised whether medical exemptions should be given for those falling ill from these devices or whether the American Disabilities Act required an exemption. They never addressed multi-family dwelling and property rights issues either. And God forbid any of the Commissioner’s ask a reasonable question as to whether there is a way to mitigate and lower these costs – such as customer self-reads. Nope, none were addressed although many public commenters made such recommendations to the Commission.

The Commission also did not address the specifics of a “non-communicating” meter. Although FP&L did state that if the customer managed to hold onto its analog meter they would be able to keep them for now. But those that didn’t and want to get rid of the smart meter will get a “non-communicating” meter of FP&L’s choice, even though the Commission was alerted through public comments that digital non-communicating meters were found to still cause health issues in states such as California and Nevada. These State’s Commissions eventually had to order that analogs be the replacement meter to alleviate public outcry. It is also not clear whether FP&L’s “non-communicating” meters contain the computer and storage to collect interval usage data that customers with privacy issues object to. But I guess we all know by now that our Fourth Amendment rights are gone (NSA scandals) and who cares about the “takings” clause in the Constitution.

The Commission never addressed communication issues for this new tariff either. FP&L does not plan to let all it’s customers know about this option. They only plan to alert via letter those 24,000 customers who are formally on their “postpone” list. The other 12,000 customers who refused access to their premises or barricaded their meters will be “automatically enrolled” and charged the fee. They will have 45 days after being charged to comply (let FP&L onto their property and install the smart meter) or the charges will stand. If they comply, they will reverse the charges.

What about the other 4.464 million customers? They will receive no notification of this option – unless you readers tell them. The least they know the better! Industry surveys show that most people don’t even know they have a smart meter or what it is. The same applies to FP&L’s customers based on my research.

Although almost 40,000 have rejected the smart meter, the costs are based on only 12,000 electing to enroll in the new tariff. They believe the fees will be high enough to make 24,000 comrades see the right way and comply. By using a lower figure it makes the costs higher and ensures everyone “moves in the direction of smart meters.” If you used the correct number (36,000 +), then the upfront fee on a real cost basis would be about a third or about $30. At that level than more people could afford to keep the meter off their homes and that would be inconsistent with FP&L and FPSC’s goal of moving everyone onto a smart meter.

I know there has been conditioning done on the public to believe that extra costs will be incurred and those opting out should pay that cost. But to those I ask, where is the fee to be put on budget billing? That non-standard billing service cost money to develop and money to run and there is NO fee to elect this service.  We all paid for it. The Commission failed to address how that non-standard service is different. A service everyone is paying for but only a few receive a benefit.

“Cost causers” in the Commission’s world is very different than you may think. The one-time fee includes a $77 field visit charge. FP&L assumes they will need to make a field visit at least once to the expected 12,000 enrollees in this program. The Commissioners spent a lot of time making sure if a customer had an analog meter and enrolled in the smart meter opt out program and FP&L had to go out there 4-5 times over the 3-5 yr. period that the customer be only charged once. But if FP&L never had to go out it was okay to charge the customer for a field visit that they would never have. It was perfectly logical to spread the costs to all the opt-outers and not to charge the individual “cost causer” for multiple visits.

Equally important, they all agreed that if after the initial enrollment period a customer bought a home with an analog and wanted a smart meter then FP&L would roll that truck and install a smart meter for free. But if a customer bought a house with an analog and wanted to keep it, they would need to enroll and pay the $95 fee even though FP&L didn’t need to roll a truck and the service visit included in the enrollment fee would not occur. Oh brave new world!

So if you are on the “postpone” list expect a letter telling you to enroll. You will be charged a $95 one-time fee and $13/month for the pleasure of not having a smart meter. These charges per FP&L will start around May 2014. Protests to the Order must be filed within 21 days.

Not happy with the Commission ruling and want to protest it?

Contact CHASM at smartmeterradiation@gmail.com . Visit their site here http://microwavechasm.org/

HUD’s ‘Fair Housing’ Assault on Local Communities

The American Enterprise Institute presents a case study of crony advocacy in proposed rule writing. Please watch this video featuring experts on HUD’s distortion of local housing markets.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its long-awaited proposal “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” in July with the intent of restructuring zoning practices in local jurisdictions and neighborhoods across the country. At a Capitol Hill luncheon event, Westchester County Executive, Robert Astorino, presents his first-hand experience with HUD’s demands to sue localities over common zoning regulations in an effort to dismantle local zoning as it is known today.

Cornelia Mrose presented her original research analyzing the comments submitted for HUD’s proposed rule “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing”. It is a textbook case of crony advocacy. Her analysis of the hundreds of comments submitted during the comment period on the proposed ruling found that an overwhelming majority of commenting non-profit organizations are stakeholders of HUD and support the new ruling. Many of these HUD affiliated and HUD funded groups submitted comments based on engineered templates. In contrast, comments by individual citizens make up almost two thirds of all comments with a vast majority of citizens opposing the ruling.

hud crony advocacy

For a larger view click on the chart.

Speaker Biographies

Rob Astorino was reelected Westchester County executive in 2013 with nearly 57 percent of the vote. He won by delivering on the bold reforms he promised in his first campaign. His 2 percent reduction in the county property-tax levy was more than any county in the past four years. He also managed to reduce county spending by 5.2 percent by cutting waste, reducing his own staff by 19 percent, and requiring health care contributions from elected officials and his staff. He even got seven of eight government unions to start contributing to their own health care. These reforms and other sensible reforms allowed Westchester to create more than 27,000 new private-sector jobs and retain the highest-in-the-state credit rating. Before taking office as county executive, he was the station manager and program director of the Catholic channel on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio and hosted a weekly radio show from St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Cardinals Edward Egan and Timothy M. Dolan. In 2001, he helped launch ESPN Radio in New York and became the station’s senior producer. Astorino was first elected to public office at age 21, serving as a member of the Mount Pleasant Board of Education. He went on to serve for 12 years as a councilman on the Mount Pleasant Town Board, including 6 years as deputy supervisor. In 2003, he was elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators.

Cornelia Mrose is the cohost of “The Steve Mayo Show” at WVOX in Westchester County. Born and raised in Germany, she has worked as a software developer for Software AG in Germany and for Lloyds Bank and Smallworld in England. In 2003, she moved from London to the US. Cornelia is active in local politics and lives with her husband and their three teenaged daughters in Westchester County.

Edward J. Pinto, an executive vice president and chief credit officer for Fannie Mae until the late 1980s, has done groundbreaking research on the role of government housing policies in the lead-up to the financial crisis. In particular, his data have revealed striking facts about the contributions of housing policy to the mortgage crisis. Two of his major research papers, “Government housing policies in the lead-up to the financial crisis: A forensic study” and “Triggers of the financial crisis,” were submitted to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. At AEI, Pinto is continuing his work on the role of housing policies in the financial crisis and researching policy considerations and options for rebuilding America’s housing-finance sector.

The National Debt in One Picture

“Congress is beginning its new year with a budget deal that busts right through “caps” it was supposed to have on spending. At Heritage, we want to hold Congress accountable for its tax-and-spend ways, even as Members claim there’s no room to cut,” writes Kelsey Harris from the Heritage Foundation.

A good place to start is understanding the mountain of debt Americans are already under. Check out and share our infographic below that puts it in perspective.

trillion.breakdown_600pxwide

And Pretty Soon You Have Some Real – What?

I planned to spend the month of January clearing out files and getting old interests off of my computer to make room for new ones rather than doing any writing but a telephone call from a person well informed about banking, bank regulations, the American legal system, and many other things (including USA, Inc.), and it changed my plans. He called and asked a simple question: “What’s your opinion of Bitcoin?” I’ve had many other friends ask … and have avoided an answer – until now.

Banking, not currency, is my area of expertise … but the two concepts overlap. Without money, what good is a bank?

What is money? Before I address the topic of Bitcoin, this question must be answered. What is money? What is wealth? What is profit? The three are intertwined, but they are not the same thing.

Money is a reward for labor and risk management. People who run their own independent businesses are rewarded with profit for their good decisions (or take losses for bad ones) involving risk management. People who work for them – or for multinational companies – take no risk but provide the sweat of their brow to gain access to money. Stock market investors are rewarded for their good decisions with profit – or are penalized for bad ones. For most people, however, money is the reward for labor and risk management. After earning it, it becomes the means to survive, giving us access to everything from housing and comfort – to the opposite. Anyone who opens a business every day manages risk. Anyone who invests in various market products – from stocks to bonds and mutual funds and metals – manages risk. When you get to the bottom line, though, money is something the vast majority of people think they can stuff in their mattress or pull from their wallets to pay for a drink at the local bar or to tip a waitress at Denny’s for good breakfast service.

As long as government can put you in prison for not paying your taxes, what backs America’s paper currency is not “nothing.” People tell you that but it is untrue. What supports the Dollar/Federal Reserve Note is the tax base of the nation. Our paper money is backed by the taxes paid by the American people, by the sweat of our brow, by the value of our real estate (before mortgage-backed derivatives ruined it), and our commodities. Generally, productivity determines our wealth, not “things.”

Money is a nationally-recognized medium of exchange – like the U.S. dollar (or Federal Reserve Note – bearing in mind that the word “note” also means “loan”) or the British Pound Sterling or the French Franc or the German Deutsche Mark. But money has changed in the past few years. Computers turned “money” into “virtual currencies” or “digital currencies.” The United States Federal Reserve Note is the largest digital currency in the world. Bitcoin’s claim to being a digital currency is totally minimized when you think about the “digital dollar” for longer than a minute.

Bitcoin supporters – and they are legion – are as dedicated to the concept of a non-government backed currency like Bitcoin as any Greenie is to eliminating carbon footprints. They are pretty radical. They have found something to believe in… something they believe to be better than money produced and regulated and backed by governments around the world.

Supporters of Bitcoin think of it as a non-government (or post-government) currency – but it is not. Government can shut it down anytime it wants. And that was the first answer I gave to the caller who asked the question. A “virtual currency” (like Bitcoin) is invisible. It depends on billions of computers which are linked together. You cannot dilute Bitcoin, you cannot counterfeit it… and those two things make it highly desirable to many people who have lost their confidence in the current central bank-controlled world of money. The dollar is being counterfeited all over the world. The point is, the people have largely lost their trust in government. Like most not terribly bright people, they simply do not recognize the point at which they are going to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs and think that Gordon Gekko’s statement that “Greed is good” is accurate – into infinity. Greed is not good – and fairly earned profits are not bad.

Does Bitcoin bypass central banks and currencies, as its supporters suggest it does? Let me answer that question with a question: How do you obtain Bitcoin? Does someone pay you for it in return for your labor? No… you are paid in the nationally-recognized currency of your nation in return for your labor. People who manage risk to earn profits are also paid in the currency of the realm, so to speak. The only way you can get Bitcoin is to use dollars or yen or francs, etc., to purchase it. Thus, it does not by-pass central banks or currencies. It is dependent upon them for its very existence.

Bitcoin exploded on the American scene… well, it exploded worldwide. The biggest users of Bitcoin are the people of China. The people of India are also heavily invested. People who have had limited access to traditional banks in their nations have been drawn to the Bitcoin digital currency.

The fact is, belief in paper money is crumbling. Why? Because of mortgage-backed derivatives. Because of government reports that tell us inflation is only 3% — when we know what we pay for groceries exceeds that number by far. Because of Quantitative Easing payments by the Federal Reserve to Wall Street banks – certainly not representative of the vast majority of independently-owned commercial banks in America – to prop up the stock market. Because of the manipulation of the precious metals markets by banksters and government agents who act in opposition to the well-being of the citizens of this nation. The fact is, belief in paper money is crumbling because of lies (from ObamaCare to Benghazi to IRS manipulations of tax status qualification). And that has stimulated international interest in Bitcoin.

The problem with America’s currency today is that too much of it is being “printed” – though it’s not really printed these days. It’s just key-coded into a computer. Another problem is Bitcoin stock volatility … it’s gone up 9,000% just this year. Now that could take the currency market on the ride of its life, couldn’t it? Currencies need to be stable or the world can’t be stable. A nation’s currency needs a lack of volatility. One reason so many people want a currency that is backed by gold and silver is because they are sufficiently rare as to prevent too much duplication of them and, thus, a certain amount of non-volatility is achieved. You can’t print – or key-code – a bar of gold into a computer. One of the things supporters point out is that Bitcoin programmers replicated something that cannot be counterfeited or diluted. Well, they say that – but that’s an assumption that hasn’t withstood sufficient tests of time, hacker technology, and marketplace manipulations. It is unproven.

How do you get Bitcoin? You must use the currency of your nation to purchase it. So Bitcoin does not by-pass currency and central banks as advertised. You need your national currency to gain access to it. Thus, Bitcoin’s primary value lies in its stock market price, not in any established market value – perceived, not actual value. And government can shut down Bitcoin anytime it chooses. How? Turn off access to the computer. If you do not think government controls what has access to the Internet, you have not been following the news. Should Bitcoin ever become a real threat to the central banking system, Bitcoin will be shut down. Do you really believe that a central banking system that has seen every President assassinated (or attempts made) when they tried to break away from the central banking system is going to hesitate for one moment to cut off access to Bitcoin should it become a threat? Please!

On June 4, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 11110 giving the Treasury Department explicit authority “to issue silver certificates against any silver bullion, silver, or standard silver dollars in the Treasury.” In other words, for every ounce of silver in the U.S. Treasury vault, the government could place new currency into circulation. More than $4 billion in U.S. Notes were created in $2 and $5 denominations. President Kennedy was assassinated five months later … while the Treasury Department was printing $10 and $20 United States Notes (incidentally the $10 and $20 Notes were never circulated). After the Kennedy assassination, the U.S. Notes Kennedy had issued were immediately taken out of circulation. Almost all of the paper currency in the United States – over 99% — is Federal Reserve Notes, not the United States Notes John F. Kennedy constitutionally created.

Abraham Lincoln needed financial assistance to finance the War Between the States (some call it the Civil War). New York banks offered him loans at a 24% to 36% interest rate. Instead, Lincoln got Congress to allow him to produce Greenbacks. The Greenback solution worked so well, Lincoln intended to make it a permanent policy… one that would do away with the need for a central bank. As history teaches us, President Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while watching a play at Ford’s Theater. There were attempts on the life of President Andrew Jackson, too. Jackson firmly opposed central banks and his vow to prevent a central bank was the thrust of his Presidential campaign. He was elected – which should tell you what the people wanted.

Do you really believe the richest, most amoral, most powerful organization in the world – the Bank of International Settlements whose members are the central banks of the world – would have a problem in shutting Bitcoin down in a New York minute if they thought it represented any kind of threat to them? I don’t. All they have to do is remove Bitcoin from the Internet… and without the Internet, there is no Bitcoin. It is, however, interesting to ponder if Bitcoin is a false flag designed to lead people down a yellow brick road, promising a solution to the central bank problem while concurrently creating a huge bubble! We’ll see.

Too, there are technical problems with Bitcoin. For example, if I owe you $1,000 today and give you the correct amount of Bitcoin to pay that debt, by the time you cash my payment the value of the Bitcoin may have sunk sufficiently that you get only half of what you loaned me. That is a solid argument against Bitcoin as a day-to-day form of currency. When something is that volatile, it cannot be used as a medium of exchange. Those who argue that we should use gold and silver coinage rather than paper bills need to own up to the volatility of precious metals, too. We have seen in the past years how easily the gold and silver markets can be manipulated. That’s why they, alone, aren’t good mediums of exchange… under the current system certain banksters get a minute or 15 seconds on the computer before anyone else can invest and set the price for precious metals for the day, making them too volatile. Until the manipulation problem is solved, that problem remains. Part of the solution is using all commodities to back a nation’s currency. The entire world market of commodities cannot be manipulated at the same time.

Digital currencies are, Bitcoin supporters say, the wave of the future. What they neglect to state is that the US Federal Reserve Note is already the world’s largest digital currency.

Many people are aware that a global currency reset is scheduled. Actually, it has already begun. No doubt that the dollar is in big trouble … we all know that. The world’s central banks will soon get rid of the dollar as the international currency of trade and a global currency reset will be used to achieve that. It will not be a hidden event — you will hear the words “global currency reset.” It is scheduled to happen within the next three months… but there are many a slip between cup and lip.

There are 204 countries that agreed with the IMF to revalue their currencies. It is said they have agreed to keep their currencies within a 5% differential of each other. That doesn’t mean the collapse of the US dollar. That comes later. The hope is that the global currency reset will prevent currency wars – which is what we have right now and it’s hurting everyone. In some nations, currencies will be devalued. In others, value will increase. When a currency is devalued, the cost of labor goes down – which appeals to multi-national corporations. Some say the US dollar will go down 30%. – I think the global currency reset will cause the dollar to go down more than that, but that’s just my opinion. In relation to other currencies in the world, the US dollar will be revalued in relation to the value of other currencies worldwide. How will worldwide currency values be established? Productivity and population… and we’re back to where I started this article: the value of money is determined by labor and risk management.

What does that mean? If the dollar drops by 30% , it means 30% inflation. As America gets over its love affair with cheap Chinese products – after the Chinese currency is revalued upward – future costs of those products will be much higher. So there will be a secondary cost increase – and that means more inflation beyond the original 30%.

The currencies will be reset, they say, according to the assets of the country. What is America’s big industry? You’ve heard it from me a hundred times this past year: Debt. That’s why I call the economic driver of our nation “debtism” rather than “capitalism.” We have no manufacturing or industrial base. With Quantitative Easing, the Federal Reserve System’s Balance Sheet has increased from 12 (plus) trillion at the end of the Bush Administration to an explosive $17 trillion under Obama. There are no assets left in America. Debt is our biggest asset.

And now you know why I’ve also been saying for the past year that the best investment you can make is things you will need in the immediate future: Underwear, clothing, toilet paper, shoes (for adults), canned goods and other long-term food, medical materials – iodine, e.g.. They are all going to shoot sky-high in the coming months and years. Take a look at those things on which you are most dependent – and stock up on them.

Notice to marketers: We are now moving from a want-driven marketplace to a needs-driven marketplace.

How Dodd-Frank is Destroying our Economy

Peter J. Wallison from the American Enterprise Institute knows that Dodd-Frank was “an illegitimate response” to the 2008 US financial crisis. Wallison makes his points in “The Case for Repealing Dodd-Frank.” He states housing bubbles are “procyclical” and notes while Obamacare has received all of the attention, “Dodd-Frank deserves a look.”

Wallison begins with, “The 2008 financial crisis was a major event, equivalent in its initial scope—if not its duration—to the Great Depression of the 1930s. At the time, many commentators said that we were witnessing a crisis of capitalism, proof that the free market system was inherently unstable … These views culminated in the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act that is founded on the notion that the financial system is inherently unstable and must be controlled by government regulation.”

Wallison then goes about examining the causes of the 2008 financial crisis, which he classifies as “the largest housing bubble in [US] history.”

Wallison notes, “Congress planted the seeds of the crisis in 1992, with the enactment of what were called ‘affordable housing’ goals for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac … Between 1991 and 2003, Fannie and Freddie’s market share increased from 28 to 46 percent. From this dominant position, they were able to set the underwriting standards for the market as a whole; few mortgage lenders would make middle-class mortgages that could not be sold to Fannie or Freddie … In a sense, government backing of the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] and their market domination was their undoing. Community activists had kept the two firms in their sights for many years, arguing that Fannie and Freddie’s underwriting standards were so tight that they were keeping many low- and moderate income families from buying homes.”

“Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was given authority to increase the goals, and Congress cleared the way for far more ambitious requirements by suggesting in the legislation that down payments could be reduced below five percent without seriously impairing mortgage quality,” states Wallison. This was a false premise and led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Wallison concludes, “If the American people come to recognize that the financial crisis was caused by the housing policies of their own government—rather than insufficient regulation or the inherent instability of the U.S. financial system—Dodd-Frank will be seen as an illegitimate response to the crisis. Only then will it be possible to repeal or substantially modify this repressive law.”

Terresa Monroe-Hamilton in her article “An American Depression: Extreme Haircut Edition” warns, “Americans know deep inside that things are very dire indeed and getting worse by the second. Overwhelmingly, they no longer believe the economic numbers from the government. Lies – all lies and propaganda. Instead of the breadlines of the last Great Depression, we have EBT Cards, providing the hungry with food. For those who have now been unemployed for years in The Greatest Depression, it doesn’t cut it.”

Monroe-Hamilton notes, “Much of the Western world will require defaults, a savings tax and higher inflation to clear the way for recovery as debt levels reach a 200-year high, according to a new report by the International Monetary Fund.”

Will we see another financial meltdown in 2014?

ABOUT  PETER J. WALLISON

Peter J. Wallison holds the Arthur F. Burns Chair in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Previously he practiced banking, corporate, and financial law at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Washington, D.C., and in New York. He also served as White House Counsel in the Reagan Administration. A graduate of Harvard College, Mr. Wallison received his law degree from Harvard Law School and is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, among many other publications. He is the editor, co-editor, author, or co-author of numerous books, including Ronald Reagan: The Power of Conviction and the Success of His Presidency and Bad History, Worse Policy: How a False Narrative about the Financial Crisis Led to the Dodd-Frank Act.

Will 2014 be the year of the Bitcoin breakout?

“Like it or love it, bitcoin has been a constant theme of headlines for the past year, as 2013 marked its coming of age. Last year’s nerd money fad has become this year’s most talked about product,” writes Patrick L. Young an expert in global financial markets.

As the US Federal Reserve continues to print money, many investors are looking at alternatives. Perhaps Bitcoins will be on your list of investments in 2014?

Young notes:

Ultimately, nature abhors a vacuum and with western political leadership an increasingly distant memory, citizens are becoming increasingly restive about the parlous state of financial governance. Throughout the West, the ravages of quantitative easing [QE] have helped the wealthiest prosper, while ordinary citizens have struggled through a grinding economic plight, which has left voters feeling increasingly abandoned by government.

Into this void has stepped something which had been mooted for many years: a popular electronic currency. Bitcoin is filling a gap self-interested central bankers are keen to suggest doesn’t need filling. Establishment media has been wrong-footed as the Copernican Revolution in finance creates not just bitcoin but a series of parallel financial universes where independent money is at the center of commerce, as opposed to government manipulated fiat currency.

Read more.

Romain Dillet from TechCrunch writes, “As 2013 came to an end, many reflected on last year’s biggest tech news — and Bitcoin was a serious contender. But the main question remains: why are people interested in Bitcoin?”

“This whole debate reappeared when Charlie Stross stated that “’Bitcoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mind — to damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions.’ Paul Krugman then quoted his post, neither denying nor approving this thought. But Chris Dixon (and Fred Wilson in the comment section) reiterated their strong interest in Bitcoin while sharing that they are both Democrats,” reports Dillet.

Catalina Camia from USA Today reports, “Rep. Steve Stockman says he’ll accept Bitcoins to help fund his campaign for the U.S. Senate against Sen. John Cornyn. One catch: The Federal Election Commission deadlocked in November when asked whether political action committees and candidates could accept the virtual currency. Stockman tweeted a link to a Business Insider story saying he would accept Bitcoins in his uphill Texas GOP primary against Cornyn, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican leader.”

Young concludes by stating, “2013 ended with citizens increasingly alienated from government as a monetary ally and edging closer to “In Bitcoin we Trust”. Bitcoin itself may only be the first stage of a revolution, similar perhaps to the Netscape browser at the birth of the web, or the Ford Model T which popularized automobile transport. Ultimately, however you look at it, this was the year when bitcoin made its irrevocable mark on history.”

So what’s in your wallet? Bitcoins?

How You’ll Pay for Obamacare in 2014

“Obamacare contains 18 specific tax hikes, mandates, or penalties that cost Americans money, and three new ones take effect in 2014. This is only the beginning—watch how two of these taxes get worse in the years to come,” notes Alyene Senger from the Heritage Foundation.

1. Individual Mandate Tax. The individual mandate is designed to strong-arm individuals into purchasing government-approved health insurance or facing a tax penalty. In 2014, the penalty for not purchasing insurance will be either $95 or 1 percent of annual income (whichever is greater). Very few, if any, people will end up paying just $95, because individuals with an annual income of only $9,500 or less would likely qualify for Medicaid or a hardship exemption from the mandate. The mandate increases drastically in coming years, rising to $325 or 2 percent of income in 2015, and $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016—whichever is greater.

2. Health Insurer Tax. One of the largest tax increases in the law is an annual fee imposed on health insurers based on their share of the market. It is estimated to raise $8 billion in 2014 alone. The tax will more than likely be passed on to consumers through premium increases. An actuarial analysis by the consulting firm Oliver Wyman projects that in 2014, this tax will increase premiums by 1.9 percent to 2.3 percent. And the impact will be greater in later years as the tax increases.

3. Reinsurance Fee. This fee isn’t included in the list of 18 tax hikes, but it’s another one that will impact the cost of insurance. Health insurers will have to pay the temporary fee on group health plans to help spread the cost of the covering those in the individual market, inside and outside Obamacare’s exchanges. The fee begins in 2014, costing $63 per covered person and decreasing in 2015 and 2016. Like most taxes and fees, the result will likely be higher insurance premiums.

Sneak Peek at 2015: Employer Mandate. By law, the employer mandate was supposed to begin in 2014, but the Obama Administration delayed enforcing it until 2015. The employer mandate forces employers with 50 or more full-time employees (defined as those working 30 hours per week) to offer government-approved health coverage or pay a penalty. The penalty varies—either $2,000 per employee after the first 30 workers, or $3,000 per employee receiving subsidized coverage in the exchange, whichever is less.

Regardless of the delay, many businesses have already adapted by reducing hours for their employees—falling under the threshold to avoid both the cost of coverage and the penalty.

We need health reform that works for Americans—not against them. Learn more.

Obama’s 2014 Big Lie: Income Inequality

As the liberal disaster called Obamacare unfolds, President Barack Obama is already embarked on his next Big Lie: income inequality.

It’s useful to visit some of the planks of Karl Marx’s 1848 Communist Manifesto. They included abolition of private property—the keystone of capitalism—and the application of all rents of land to a public purpose. Marx advocated a heavy progressive or graduated income tax whereas a fair tax that treats all Americans fairly by taxing what you spend instead of what you earn. The current tax code is more than 73,000 pages! Marx wanted to eliminate all rights of inheritance and centralize credit by means of a national bank.

What Obama is talking about is socialism/communism when he claims that income inequality must be altered by more government intrusion into our lives and his claims are false. He said that “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” is “the defining challenge of our time”

His objective is to further divide Americans by promising what government cannot and should not deliver. This is now the Democratic Party theme leading up to the midterm elections in November. He is right about one thing, only economic growth can provide the opportunity for Americans to increase their personal incomes, provide a choice of investments, and save more for the future. In his first five years in office, economic growth has been historically slow.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion commentary by Robert A. Grady he cites a 2011 study by Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian, “The Mismeasure of Inequality”, that concluded that “[I]nequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009.” According to studies by the U.S. Treasury, the capitalist system in America, providing mobility (up or down), found that “considerable income mobility” in the decades 1987-1996 and 1996-2005, found that approximately half of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 had moved to a higher quintile by 2005. They were decades, the 1980s and 1990s, in which the vast majority of Americans gained higher incomes.

In the past four and a half years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class were hurt the most and opportunity slowed. Under Obama millions of Americans are out of work and dependent on government programs such as food stamps and unemployment compensation. The later ended for many on December 31. The inequality that Obama cites is the direct result of the failure of his economic programs as well as a dramatic surge in federal regulations that harm economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act—Obamacare—is discouraging full-time employment. According to Gallup’s payroll-to-population ratio, the proportion of the American population working full-time, has dropped almost two percentage points in the last year to 43.8%. Wall Street Journal columnist noted that Obama spent 2013 fund-raising for the Democratic Party “making 30 separate visits to wealthy donors” at “more than twice the rate of the President’s two-term predecessors. On the day following the September 11, 2012 attack that killed an American ambassador and three others in Benghazi, Obama flew to Las Vegas on a fund-raising trip.

In the year ahead you will hear him cite figures based on 1979 income rates to justify his call for more opportunity, but in 1979 the mean (average) household income of the bottom 20% of wage earners was $4,000. By 2012, it was $11.499, an increase of 186%. For the middle class, the increase was 211%. Despite the 2008 financial crisis, it still rose.

Did the rich get richer? Yes. But the rich earn their money from inheritance, from business development (jobs) and investment. Under communism there is no inheritance; the state gets it all. And the state owns the factories and instruments of production, as well as collectivizing agriculture. It maintains a “progressive” or graduated income tax.

Does the political theme of income inequality work? Bill de Blasio, New York’s new mayor, ran on an income inequality platform and will be sworn in by former President Bill Clinton who will be accompanied by his wife, Hillary.

Income inequality will be the theme of Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union speech, but like everything else he says it will be a Big Lie.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Is Rep. Vern Buchanan (FL-16) Sugar Coating his Vote for the Ryan-Murray Budget deal?

I sent an email to Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL District 16) regarding his vote in favor of the Ryan-Murray Budget. I received a reply and decided to analyze what Rep. Buchanan said in his letter. This is important because Rep. Buchanan sits on the House Ways and Means Committee and is co-Chair of the Florida Congressional Delegation. Both are key positions in developing fiscal and spending policies at the federal level.

Here is a point by point analysis of Rep. Buchanan’s reply using a variety of resources including the Washington Post, Heritage Foundation and Breitbart:

Dear Dr. Swier:

Thank you for contacting me about the federal budget that passed the Congress last week.  Although far from perfect, this agreement is a positive step toward restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington.

ANALYSIS – RESTORING FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY: WaPO, ‘The total deal is $85 billion. About $45 billion of that replaces sequestration cuts in 2014. About $20 billion replaces sequestration cuts in 2015. About $20 billion is deficit reduction atop sequestration.” Heritage, “[T]he deal increases spending immediately while delaying deficit reduction until later and trades some spending cuts for more revenue.” Breitbart, “The Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013 would increase the discretionary spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) by $45 billion in 2014 and $18 billion in 2015,” the opening paragraph of the analysis reads. “The $63 billion in higher spending is not offset over the BCA window of 2014–2021; during that period, the legislation increases spending by almost $25 billion, as 53% of the offsets in the BBA realized during the BCA window come from higher fees and revenues.'”

The budget reduces the deficit and cuts spending by eliminating waste, stripping corporate welfare and trimming benefits for federal employees.  And it does this all without raising taxes.

ANALYSIS – ELIMINATING WASTE, STRIPPING CORPORATE WELFARE AND TRIMMING BENEFITS OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: WaPO, “The new policies in the deal are split between revenue through fees — travelers will see higher prices on airline tickets and federal workers will have to contribute more to pensions — and spending cuts.” Heritage, “The budget deal ends a cost-shared partnership called the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research Program, which researches ultra-deepwater architecture and unconventional drilling technologies. Ending the program is an important recognition that the federal government allocates billions of taxpayer dollars to activities that the private sector should be fully funding. Congress should go much further and remove all of these funding streams for all energy sources and technologies … The budget deal’s provision to improve the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) $36 billion deficit is a step in the right direction, but the allocation of increased premiums is misguided. The budget deal increases both the per-participant premium as well as the variable-rate premium assessed on plans’ unfunded liabilities. Increasing the per-participant premiums forces financially sound pension plans to pay for the financially unsound plans.” Breitbart, ” [T]his plan is not even really a budget since Ryan and Murray abandoned commitments to a budget conference—making the legislation actually just a spending bill.”

The agreement replaces some of the arbitrary cuts under sequestration with more targeted spending reductions, while achieving deficit reduction greater than under current law.  The budget also preserved 92 percent of the original spending cuts required under sequestration.

Specifically, the budget deal includes some of the following provisions:

  • Reduces the deficit by $23 billion without raising taxes.
  • Reduces borrowing by $85 billion through a combination of mandatory savings and increased non-tax revenue.
  • Repeals corporate welfare policies, saving taxpayers $8.1 billion.
  • Ends the special carve-out for student-loan servicers saving taxpayers $3 billion.

ANALYSIS – ACHIEVING DEFICIT REDUCTION AND INCREASING NON-TAX REVENUE: WaPo, “Spending will be $45 billion higher in 2014 than it would’ve been absent the deal. The deal replaces about half of sequestration’s cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending in 2014. It replaces about a fourth of them in 2015. That means most of sequestration will go into effect in both years.” Heritage, “Under Title VI section 601, the proposal calls for an increase in aviation passenger security fees. This fee increase would take the current amount from $2.50 per passenger to $5.60. Unlike the original fee, this increase is not being used to fund or improve security. Instead, the revenue collected is being proposed to replace automatic spending cuts set to begin in January. The revenue, however, will not be directly distributed to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); instead it will be deposited annually into a general fund of the Treasury. This increase is yet another way that the Administration and Congress are using the travel industries as an open pocketbook.” Breitbart, “Much of the spending increase in this deal has been justified by increased fees and new revenue. In other words: it’s a fee increase to fuel a spending increase—rather than reducing deficits. Disappointingly, CBO’s analysis states that $47 billion out of the $85 billion in offsets occur outside the original BCA window, and the spending cut portion of those outyear offsets are of dubious validity. It is not disputable that net spending in the BCA window is increased.”

Although far from perfect, this agreement is a positive step toward restoring fiscal responsibility to Washington.

Again, thank you for contacting me.  If you want to receive congressional updates on this issue click here.

Sincerely,

Member of Congress

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The 13 Tax Increases of 2013 – Gird Your Loins, more coming in 2014!

Curtis Dubay from The Foundry writes, “It’s about time for us to uncover our eyes and take a hard look at what 2013 did to our finances. Did you feel the pinch of the 13 tax hikes that hit Americans this year?”

Before you review the list below, put these two on your watch list for 2014:

  • Obamacare’s individual mandate. Beginning in 2014, it’s mandatory to purchase health insurance. If you don’t, you’ll pay a penalty that dramatically increases over time. It starts at $95 or 1 percent of your income (whichever is greater). It rises to $325 or 2 percent of income in 2015, and $695 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016.
  • Obamacare tax on insurance companies. If you liked seeing your premiums go up, you’ll love this new tax on health insurers—which they are most likely to pass on to you.

As you start reviewing your tax information for 2013, here’s what you’re contending with.

The 13 Tax Increases of 2013

1. Payroll Tax: increase in the Social Security portion of the payroll tax from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent for workers. This hit all Americans earning a paycheck—not just the “wealthy.” For example, The Wall Street Journal calculated that the “typical U.S. family earning $50,000 a year” would lose “an annual income boost of $1,000.”

2. Top marginal tax rate: increase from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).

3. Phaseout of personal exemptions for adjusted gross income (AGI) over $300,000 ($250,000 for single filers).

4. Phase down of itemized deductions for AGI over $300,000 ($250,000 for single filers).

5. Tax rates on investment: increase in the rate on dividends and capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent for taxable incomes over $450,000 ($400,000 for single filers).

6. Death tax: increase in the rate (on estates larger than $5 million) from 35 percent to 40 percent.

7. Taxes on business investment: expiration of full expensing—the immediate deduction of capital purchases by businesses.

Obamacare tax increases that took effect:

8. Another investment tax increase: 3.8 percent surtax on investment income for taxpayers with taxable income exceeding $250,000 ($200,000 for singles).

9. Another payroll tax hike: 0.9 percent increase in the Hospital Insurance portion of the payroll tax for incomes over $250,000 ($200,000 for single filers).

10. Medical device tax: 2.3 percent excise tax paid by medical device manufacturers and importers on all their sales.

11. Reducing the income tax deduction for individuals’ medical expenses.

12. Elimination of the corporate income tax deduction for expenses related to the Medicare Part D subsidy.

13. Limitation of the corporate income tax deduction for compensation that health insurance companies pay to their executives.

President Obama demanded these higher taxes, but they did nothing to address the actual cause of our deficit and debt problem: too much spending. The proper way to address this problem is through reforms to entitlement programs.

President Obama promised the American people a “balanced approach” of tax increases and spending cuts to reduce deficits and debt. He achieved the tax increase portion of that approach. Now Congress needs to force him to follow through on the spending cuts.