Congress Looking to Usher in the Holiday Shopping Season with a Tax Increase

Monday, September 15th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Issues

Buried in the stopgap funding bill that House Republican Leadership cobbled together last week was a little noticed provision that tees up a vote for a multi-billion tax increase during the lame-duck session of Congress.

The funding bill would extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) – which blocks taxes on Internet access – from November 1, 2014 until December 11, 2014. Congress has known about this looming expiration for seven years.  There is broad support for making the tax prohibition permanent – permanent extension has 53 sponsors in the Senate and passed the House on a voice vote.

Never letting a good (manufactured) crisis go to waste, Congress is going to use the pending expiration of the Internet access tax prohibition to shepherd through a tax increase on phone, catalog and internet purchases. This week, the chief sponsor of the Internet Tax Bill, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), said as much, “I think there will be less concern after the election. The two go together nicely. One makes sure the Internet isn’t taxed and the other makes sure that sales taxes that are avoided with the Internet will be collected.”

The Marketplace Fairness Act

The Marketplace Fairness Act – or as it’s more accurately known, the Internet Sales Tax Act – is an effort by big spenders in Washington to enable their friends in state governments across the country to collect sales taxes on purchases made outside their states.  Under current law, unless a company has a physical presence – a nexus – in a state, that state cannot tax their sales.  It’s a common sense approach – if a company isn’t in the state, it shouldn’t be subjected to the tax laws of the state.

Most folks who have shopped online have experienced this at checkout – if you live in one of the twenty-four states which have a sales tax, but does not have an Amazon warehouse or office, you get to check out without being forced to pay sales tax.  Your state most likely requires you to pay something called a “use tax,” but it’s your job to pay that, not Amazon’s to collect it.

What Congress wants to do is force Amazon, eBay, catalog vendors, infomercials, and anyone else who sells you something from out of state (as long as their company sells over one million dollars a year – a small threshold) to collect more taxes from you. In fact, the total is $23 Billion more in taxes each year.

This is the kind of idea that is only popular with lobbyists and government officials.

Lobbyists love it because it gives their wealthy corporate clients a leg up over smaller more nimble competitors.

Compliance with this law will be a nightmare for a small businesses.  There are ten thousand different taxing jurisdictions in the United States all imposing different rates on different goods at different times of the year.

To keep up with the various tax laws, small businesses are going to have to pay expensive fees to integrate tax collection software with their in house computer systems.  If the software costs weren’t enough, the attorney fees and accountant bills will be astronomical when they get something wrong.

If, for example, a small business in Maryland doesn’t correctly charge sales tax for of one of Connecticut’s latest sales tax holidays for school clothes, they could see themselves getting audited by the tax collector in Connecticut.  (For example, gloves and mittens are tax exempt, batting gloves for the little league baseball team are not.) And when that small businessman fails to charge Johnny’s parents tax on his batting glove, what’s going to compel that tax collector to treat him equitably?  Nothing. By it’s nature that Maryland company has no presence in Connecticut and not one Connecticut Representative or Senator to complain to about an abusive tax collector.  Further if they don’t comply with the dictates of the out of state tax collector they can find themselves hauled into court in a city thousands of miles away threaten with a court judgment if they don’t comply.

While this may be a nightmare for small businessmen, Amazon loves the idea.  They have enormous IT, accounting and legal departments already.  Complying with this is an insignificant burden in the grand scheme of issues they have to deal with. It also comes with the added benefit of sticking it to their competitors.  Win-Win.

Government officials love it because they see it as free money.  Every month Amazon’s going to send them a big check and all they have to do is lobby Congress to help the company stick it to the little guy.   As usual the person whose ox get’s gored is the taxpayer.

So when Black Friday rolls around, remember that unless Congress hears objections, they’re going to sneak one more thing into your online shopping basket – a $23 billion tax increase.

Latest Jobs Numbers Reveal More Than Just One Bad Month

Monday, September 8th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Economy

Even the Left can’t sugar coat America’s latest jobs numbers. Employment numbers were on the upswing for the past six months, but things took a turn for the worse with only 142,000 jobs created in August, well under the 200,000-225,000 that many experts predicted and the worst month of 2014.

And while the unemployment rate dropped .1%, most of that is due to individuals leaving the workforce, not because of employment.

Additionally, the Labor Market indicated that average weekly hours worked are still at 34.5, showing that employers haven’t found any good reasons to increase hours or offer overtime work.

Why has our nation’s economic recovery been so sluggish over the past few years? The Obama Administration’s unfriendly business policies, primarily Obamacare, have been a major problem.

Jobs are worst for lower-income workers, who are most likely to have their hours cut or lose their jobs because of these policies.

Obamacare mandates and penalties make it difficult for businesses to afford as many full-time workers. And it’s only getting worse in this regard. Starting in 2015, employers will be required to offer qualifying health benefits to all full-time employees, or they will face a $2,000 penalty tax.

It’s not just Obamacare that’s the problem. As economist Peter Morici wrote, it’s also this Administration’s “big spending stimulus policies and the Fed’s obsession with pumping money into a moribund New York financial industry.”

Another problem for businesses under Obama are needless, expensive regulations that make it extremely difficult for small businesses to stay afloat and hire as many employees as they’d like. This also discourages entrepreneurship, which is responsible for creating about 3 million new jobs every year – and business creation is on a steep decline right now.

As fast food workers strike across the country for a $15/hour minimum wage – with the support of the President — it doesn’t seem as though they understand the economic consequences that a wage change of such significance would have on the job market.

It’s essential now to demonstrate the connection between Obama’s penalizing policies and lack of jobs and full-time employment. Conservatives should use August jobs numbers to showcase the consequences of anti-business policies and uplift the importance of eliminating job growth barriers like Obamacare in the future.

Shutting Down The Ex-Im Bank

Friday, September 5th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog

When the junior Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz, stood for over 21 hours in protest of Obamacare, many were quick to attack him as seeking personal gain. And when the government shutdown occurred, Senator Cruz, not the Democrats were blamed.

It has already been chronicled that Senator Cruz is the one really leading the Republican Party, both in popularity and in forcing the Republican and Democrat Leadership to march to the beat of a more conservative drum.

That’s why the vote to shut down the Export Import (Ex-Im) Bank is so important and why conservatives cannot settle for a temporary extension of funding.

The Ex-Im Bank is nothing more than corporate welfare. It uses taxpayer money to support massive corporations, and even foreign companies, that compete with our own businesses in the United States.

Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and President Obama’s cronies want the Export Import bank to stay alive, but the conservative caucus in the United States Senate is vocal enough to make the Senate grind to a halt on procedural grounds.

Just like with Obamacare, if we do not let efforts to fund the Ex-Im Bank progress through procedural votes, it cannot be funded. And without funding, it dies.

So why is it so important to shut down the Ex-Im Bank?

1. It shows conservative strength going into the mid-term elections. The Chamber of Commerce is already spending money supporting Democrats in the general election after dumping millions into Republican primaries in Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Georgia. Republican’s shouldn’t trust the Chamber of Commerce, so why vote for a venture strongly supported by the Chamber?

2. While the media might try to spin it, it will not be the Republican’s fault. Right now conservatives in Congress should be illustrating why the Export Import Bank should go, and force Democrats into either a vote that can be used against them in November or a vote to kill the Export Import Bank. The ad almost writes itself: Do you want someone who shares your values making decisions in Washington, DC or K Street’s?

3. It could allow some to gain more street credibility and launch themselves into good 2016 positioning (either for running for Congress, Senate, Vice President, or even President).

If Senator Cruz and his conservative allies win on shutting down the Ex-Im Bank, we believe Cruz would then have the ability to hit Democrats below the waterline with shots to the IRS, the EPA, Foreign Aid Reform, the Federal Department of Education, Obamacare and securing our borders.

Conservatives should be about spending less, allowing free markets to decide which businesses fail or succeed, and letting local and state governments make regulations with common sense.

Integrity In Politics

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Elections, Uncategorized

Two potential 2016 Republican Primary Presidential candidates are making decisions and surrounding themselves with advisors that should be a cause for concern amongst conservatives.

With the race baiting in the Mississippi Senate primary still bitter in conservatives’ mouths, tone deaf Texas Governor Rick Perry recently hired Henry Barbour of Mississippi to help with his 2016 Presidential bid. As the man responsible for funding the racist ads, and spreading vicious lies about tea partiers and Chris McDaniel, Henry Barbour is clearly no friend of conservatives. Yet, bubba like, he continues to proudly announce that he was happy to have been a part of “expanding the electorate” in the Mississippi race. He and his uncle, Haley Barbour, are the quintessential big government Republicans who live in a world where the end justifies the means and whose ideology is power and money. And this is who Rick Perry chooses to surround himself with?

And just as Rick Perry chooses questionable friends from amongst the Republican Establishment, Senator Rand Paul has been working overtime to curry favor there but to no avail. In the Kentucky Senate primary, he was merely McConnell’s political beard for the primary and now that his shelf life there has expired, it’s becoming more and more apparent that his time on the national stage will be short. He is a man without a political country.

Not only has he lost his political moorings, his crowd of advisors and operatives clearly leaves something to be desired. Just last week, Rand’s 2010 campaign manager, Jesse Benton, resigned from his role as the manager for Mitch McConnell’s Senate campaign for his involvement in the Iowa Caucus scandal. It appears that in 2012 Benton might have played a part in spreading money around Iowa to help get Ron Paul into the White House, a series of events that is likely to land former Iowa state senator Kent Sorenson in jail.

Both Rick Perry and Rand Paul have high-level advisors with serious issues in their past that should raise red flags in the conservative movement. Why does this matter? Because when integrity is removed at the expense of all else, how can we believe that there will not be more integrity lost down the road? It is a slippery slope that once crested provides no point of return. We need to take candidates and elected officials to task for not only their votes, but their staff choices as well.

Personnel is policy and the American voters will see right through this.

Don’t Believe the Media: The Deficit Is Not Looking Good

Friday, August 29th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Economy

No one is surprised but it’s always like a blast of cold air to hear a new total for the United States deficit. This year’s CBO forecast reported a federal deficit of $506 billion and spending is projected to be around $3.5 trillion.

Something’s got to give.  While news reports are calling the federal deficit “relatively modest,” it’s hardly a number to scoff at. The number is down from last year’s $680 billion but there’s a lot of work to do – and the best place to start shoveling is in America’s huge pile of entitlements.

Total mandatory spending for 2014 was $2.54 trillion, which included social security, Medicare, Medicaid, other healthcare expenses and net interest. The idea of cutting entitlements isn’t fun – but it’s necessary to create a sustainable future for the country.

Unfortunately, while President Obama is in office, things don’t look to be changing and Medicaid will account for the largest increase in spending this year, with Social Security coming in second.

On the Left, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, ranking Member of the Budget Committee, blamed Republicans for a protecting “special interests and the very wealthy.”

Republicans blame out of control spending, of which entitlements are a major part. Unfortunately, the gridlock will ensue until at least 2015.  And if we’re to believe CBO, things are looking scary. They write in their report:

“Later in the coming decade, if current laws governing federal taxes and spending generally remain unchanged, revenues would grow only slightly faster than the economy and spending would increase more rapidly.”

If you feel like taking this up with anyone at the Budget Committee, here’s the list.

Serpents and Doves

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Foreign Policy

President Obama has been leading from behind when it comes to foreign policy. That fact is very apparent right now more than ever.

We have seen this with Guantanamo Bay, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. And as President Obama and his team have vacated the premises on foreign policy, Senators like Ted Cruz have taken the lead in shutting out the Iranian Ambassador from the United Nations, supporting Israel, and in interaction with Russia regarding the Ukraine crisis in what some see as the first steps to rebuilding the USSR.

President Putin and Russia’s leadership have been betting on all the horses and petty dictators that the United States of America is betting against.  With Russia’s recent pushes against Ukraine largely ignored, it is for the United States to reassert itself on the international stage.

As Obama has abdicated his place of leadership for tee times, it is time for us to no longer wait on a Commander in Chief who has shown that he and his administration are unwilling to act. Congress is coming off of its recess and should stand resolved to do what they can, without military intervention, to impact nations fostering animosity towards our Republic.

The ability for the United States of America to have a direct impact on Russia does not require a carrier group to be anchored in the Barents or Black Sea. Congress must simply take the first step of taking funding away.

Congress holds the purse strings to an ever-growing amount of foreign aid, a significant portion of which is going to countries who are not earning the friendship of the United States of America.

In fiscal year 2012, $440.9 million of our taxpayer dollars were obligated to Russia in foreign aid (for the Top 25 countries that received millions of our taxpayer dollars, go here to see the list).

It’s a head scratcher-we fully admit it.

We wonder how quickly Russia would stop bullying former states of the USSR for their own financial gain if we pulled the purse? On a different topic, how different the Mexican border would look if the United States spent the money on the southern border instead of across it (Mexico received over $200 million our dollars in 2012 in foreign aid)?

This is not a call to end all foreign aid. However, it is a call to restructure how we hand out our money and to whom.

Defining Conservatism

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Uncategorized

It’s Campaign 101 sort of stuff -define your opponent before he defines you. For years, there has been a struggle to define terms in American politics: conservative, liberal, tea party, leftist, socialist, big government, crony capitalism, etc. The list could go on and on.

Many of these terms are bandied about by politicians and pundits with no real attempt to actually define them. In recent years, politicians and others have taken great liberties to slap whatever label they want to on a given issue and hope that it passes muster.

Those of us who follow the inside baseball of politics remember when Matt Latimer wrote that George W. Bush and those inside his administration either 1) didn’t know there was such a thing as a “conservative movement” or 2) felt they could redefine what conservative meant. We remember reading Matt’s articles and the write-ups on his book, Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor, and chuckling at some of the stories he told. They seemed impossible, but No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, TARP and other legacies from the Bush Administration said otherwise. On all of these was slapped the label “compassionate conservatism.”

Frankly, none of them were either compassionate or were they conservative. They were bald-faced attempts to buy off constituencies and special interests and soothe conservative angst by slapping “conservative” on them.

So what do we mean by “conservative”? How do we define “conservatism”? Words and the definition of them are fundamental for so many things, not the least of which is to be able to argue definitively for or against something.

Consider for a moment if words lost their meaning. How would people interact? How would conversations have any sort of meaning if words had no definitions?

This is our attempt to at least start a conversation. There will be some who will disagree with us and that’s fine. Our goal with this blog and others to follow is to answer the questions: Are there hard and fast tenants of conservatism and if there are, what are they?

So let’s start by defining “conservative” and for the sake of keeping things simple, a simple definition with suffice.

A conservative is one who believes in limited government, the free enterprise system, the sanctity of life, lower taxes and the freedom to make individual decisions within the parameters of an ordered society. In other words, for society to function properly, there must be a list of do’s and don’ts.

Here’s where things get interesting.

What is “conservatism”? Are there core tenants to it, principles to live by?

The answer is yes.

Let’s follow up with this question: Is expanding government conservative? The question itself seems trivial, but there are many in Washington, DC and state capitols that tie themselves in knots trying to justify the expansion of government in the name of conservatism (see “compassionate conservatism” above.).

Take for example the Internet Sales Tax pushed by some who call themselves conservative. The argument made by them and their corporate funders is that it is conservative to take the Internet sales tax away from the federal government and give it to the states. Better yet, this tax creates jobs.

At first glance, the argument seems sound enough until you realize that this now gives 49 states the ability to collect taxes from the 50th and so on and so forth. The latter is the argument big government advocates make all the time: this new government program creates jobs!

So ask yourself: does the Internet Sales Tax create more or less government? Does it create more dependence on government or less? There are fundamental tenets of conservatism. You cannot be for the expansion of government and dependence on it and call yourself or the issue you are pushing conservative.

The argument will be made that it is the “fair” thing to do as brick and mortar retailers like Wal-Mart are taxed differently than online entities like eBay. But is a conservative solution one that creates more red tape or reduces it for all parties? Is it fair to create more government bureaucracy for small online businesses?

The obvious answer is to reduce the intrusion of government into the marketplace, not expand it.

Over the next few weeks, we will dig deeper into this issue and next week tackle the question: can you be fiscally conservative and socially moderate and still be considered a conservative?

Engaging At The Local Level In Politics

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Uncategorized

Many grassroots activists, Libertarians, and Republicans feel alienated by their State and National Republican Party leadership. Rather than isolating themselves into wildly pursuing a third party option – this should motivate activists to become involved.

Let’s start with a small example from our home state of Texas. State Representative Charles Perry of Texas House District 83 won his primary election this spring with 13,678 votes (there were 5,055 other votes cast for a total of 18,733 votes). Shortly thereafter, State Senator Robert Duncan was selected by Texas Tech University to be the next Chancellor of the Texas Tech University System and State Representative Charles Perry is now in the special election to replace State Senator Duncan.

However, the total number of votes that will determine Representative Perry’s replacement will be 7, not 18,733.

Why? Because according to Texas GOP State Party rules, when a nominee sets aside his nomination, the county chairmen from the counties within the state house district vote to replace the representative. In this current scenario, one county did not even have a chairman, so one had to be recruited.

Basic involvement with the county Republican Party in any of those counties now has a direct impact on the Texas State House of Representatives and could very well determine the Speaker of the House fight between current Speaker Joe Straus and State Representative Scott Turner (for more on why this is so important, read Erick Erickson’s post from a few years ago on Speaker Joe Straus).

The common argument of, “I am just one person, I don’t have the time, I cannot make an impact” is no longer acceptable.

Although it looks like the good citizens of State House District 83 will get a solid conservative, this could have gone a very different way had this happened in Mississippi.

In Mississippi we see the structure of the State Party controlled by Haley Barbour and his lackies. County chairs, who should have protested and maintained the highest level of integrity in the primary elections have been accused of hiding poll books, destroying evidence, and campaigning for Cochran, some even benefitting financially from Henry Barbour’s Super PAC, the ill named Mississippi Conservatives PAC, responsible for the racist attacks on Chris McDaniel and conservative activists.

Just weeks ago, the State GOP in Mississippi pulled a Pontius Pilate and washed their hands of the strong allegations of voter fraud that the McDaniel campaign presented to them. Their excuse was that they wouldn’t have time to notify members of the State Executive Committee according to their bylaws and therefore did not have the time to spend the appropriate amount of time reviewing the case before the deadline for them to make a fair decision.

Their solution? Send the case over to the courts.

It is our opinion that the State Party could and should have censured the Cochran Campaign for the egregious tactics they and their allies employed during the Mississippi Senate run-off.

Most of the conservative grassroots folks that we’ve been working with in Mississippi since November 2013 are involved with organizing and taking back the county parties, but they need help. It is our sense that this similar narrative is playing out across many different states and will continue to do so until conservatives actively engage in taking back the Republican Party.

Sitting on the sidelines is no longer an option. We must work together to fight for the principles that made our nation great. There is a vehicle waiting for us to become the drivers of it. Conservatives must step up and make sure the vehicle moves in the right direction.

If we don’t do it, no one will.

Why The Republican Party Is Not Serious

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Uncategorized

The Republican Party isn’t acting as if they are very serious about winning the fight in Washington, D.C. heading into the November General Election season.

Why do we say this?

Because their three talking points for why we need make Mitch McConnell majority leader in January of 2015 are:

  1. The Keystone pipeline
  2. Repeal the medical device tax
  3. Fire Harry Reid

This strategy is akin to eating the scraps off the floor and nibbling around the edges. The nation is heading recklessly over a cliff and these are the three main priorities?

Let us explain why these should be non-starters.

The Keystone pipeline: We agree that this is an important issue. But is this THE winner when it comes to freeing up the gas and oil markets in the United States? No, it’s not. There have been all kinds of projections as to why we need the Keystone Pipeline. The most obvious one is the new jobs it will create. As with most projections, numbers can vary wildly, so let’s just go with a few thousand new jobs. Now, let’s consider what would happen if we actually lifted some of the regulations on the gas and oil industry. We are not talking unfettered drilling anywhere and everywhere. But we are saying that Americans need to consider the benefits of domestic drilling regulations, both on and offshore, being lifted so the markets can become more competitive domestically and abroad. If the GOP really wanted to get serious about creating jobs, they would go beyond Keystone.

The medical device tax: This is not a winner. Not now, not ever. How is bailing out special interests and leaving the American taxpayer/health care consumer under the thumb of government regulation a good idea? Leave it to those with a Beltway mentality to think this is a winner. This is the ultimate inside-baseball issue that not only removes part of the coalition working to repeal Obamacare, it does virtually nothing to alleviate the burden Obamacare places on everyday Americans. It might create a few thousand jobs, but this is not a win for the American people. It will be a win for corporations and lobbyists, who can put more money into campaign coffers than 99 percent of Americans can.

Fire Harry Reid: Why? So we can get the sterling leadership of Mitch McConnell? Take a few minutes, and try to name anything that Mitch McConnell has accomplished during his 30 years in the United States Senate? Some folks, after clicking their fingers for a few seconds will ask, “Isn’t that the Senator who fought against campaign finance reform?” They would be correct. Over 10 years ago and that’s it.  We understand the “taking the majority” angle of “Fire Harry Reid,” but let’s not fool ourselves. There is not going to be a dramatic shift in direction with Mitch McConnell at the helm of the United States Senate. For those saying he’ll stop Obama nominees, remember: this is the man who has voted for 81 percent of Obama’s judicial nominees. In fact, in 1993, he also voted to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, two of the Supreme Court Justices who voted 5-4 to uphold the Constitutionality of Obamacare. This is also the man who pushed for the Wall Street bailouts, TARP and other massive big government policies. Now, ask yourself the question “Why?” again.

If this is what the Republican Party has been reduced to when it comes to issues they think are winning issues, then we can safely say two things. They are neither serious nor are many members of Congress with an “R” behind their names worth keeping in Washington, DC.

 

Steve Russell For Congress (OK-5)

Friday, August 15th, 2014 by and is filed under Blog, Elections, Press

He’s a decorated war veteran and a successful small businessman. He served for years as a state senator in Oklahoma and now he’s running for United States Congress.

When it comes to candidates running this election cycle, Steve Russell and the OK-5 race have been sleepers. In a state where all 66 counties went for John McCain in 2008, many folks assume that whoever wins in Oklahoma will be conservative. While that is true in some instances, such is not the case in OK-5. While Steve won the primary, he did not win enough of the vote to avoid a run-off and this next Tuesday, August 26th, voters in OK-5 will decide who to send to Washington, DC, Steve Russell or Patrice Douglas.

Not only a limited government conservative, Steve is also a staunch supporter of life, having co-authored bills that define life as beginning at conception, that restrict abortions and that require women seeking abortions to be fully informed regarding the procedure.

When we look at the math of politics, our goal is to advance the ball each and every election cycle with comprehensive conservatives. Steve Russell fits that criteria on both fiscal and social issues. What is even more important to us is the feedback from conservatives on the ground in Oklahoma and when local tea party leaders are calling us asking us to engage on behalf of Steve Russell, this only confirms the direction we were headed.

We are thrilled to endorse Steve today and look forward to celebrating a victory with him on Tuesday.

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