Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog
Even though we are in an election year, it doesn’t mean we should shy away from articulating bold solutions to the problems with our flagging system of governance. Many members of the Republican Party leadership think Republican candidates should sit on the ball and run out the clock until the election, choosing to avoid any contentious policy issue and focus only on banal, non-controversial items. This is a grave mistake.
As Ronald Reagan showed us in the ‘80s, conservatives must embrace a bold contrast between the two competing ideologies. In fact, an election year is the quintessential time to eagerly promote our values and policy solutions and explain why they foster a better economy and society than the policies of the left. In 2010, conservatives around the country ran on a bold platform, buttressed by the new energy from the Tea Party, and we won in an historic landslide. Now is not the time to stand for nothing.
Nobody has been standing on bold solutions more than Senator Mike Lee (R-UT). While many Republicans blur the differences between the parties and tepidly accept some of the premises of liberal ideological governance, Senator Lee has gone on offense. During his response to this year’s State of the Union Address, Mike Lee laid out our first principles in plain language but also weaved them together into specific policy solutions. He explained exactly how free markets and limited government help the very people for whom Obama claims to protect. He argued our views from a position of strength and went on offense against Obama’s class warfare.
That is why we are honored to host Senator Lee Wednesday night at 7:45 PM EDT in a tele-townhall to discuss some of his solutions to the problems engendered by a post-constitutional federal government. The Madison Project has been promoting a number of conservative ideas over the past few years and Senator Lee is proposing some new reform proposals that build upon those ides. In addition, we will be joined by Erick Erickson, Editor-in-Chief of RedState.com, and one of the leaders in the grassroots conservative insurgency.
Among the topics of discussion will be:
- How shrinking the federal government and fostering free market competition will benefit average American families while interventionist policies raise the cost of food, fuel, and healthcare – often to benefit well-connected special interests;
- Ideas for eliminating corporate welfare and corporate favors;
- Defending traditional marriage, especially through the prism of the 10th Amendment and religious liberty; and
- Why abolishing the federal gas tax and devolving transportation responsibility to the states will save money and improve infrastructure.
We all share the goal of defeating Senator Harry Reid (D-NV).. But acquisition of political power is not an end in itself, and we must be prepared to use Republican control of Congress and eventually the White House to limiting government, restoring our free market economy, and promoting freedom and a stronger civil society.
Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Elections
One of the more trenchant lines delivered from the podium at CPAC last week was Sarah Palin’s zinger regarding the GOP “Beltway Boys”: “You didn’t build that. The Tea Party did.” Palin was referring to the GOP House majority acquired through the 2010 midterm elections, but the same observation is apropos for the potential to win a Senate majority this year.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met someone who shares the worldview of the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin or Senator Mitch McConnell’s NRSC minions at a phone bank or door-to-door canvassing event for Republican candidates. And I’m referring to general elections as well as primaries.
The relationship between the grassroots and the establishment during elections years has always been one-directional. When we beat the establishment in primaries, they often decline to endorse our candidates in the general election and actively work against them. However, when our candidates lose, we work our tails off to ensure that the Democrat is defeated.
We all united behind the goal of defeating Pelosi in 2010, even in states where the Republican candidate was a hackneyed old-bull or establishment tool.
In 2012, when the GOP nominee was an anathema to everything we have been fighting for, we mustered the gumption to organize for him/her in a united effort to defeat Obama. Ironically, it was some of the biggest establishment cheerleaders who turned on Romney when the going got rough in the general election.
This year we stand at the precipice with the united goal of defeating Senator Harry Reid, the worst Senate leader in American history, a man who has completely gutted the Senate as a deliberative body. We all know that when the chips are down in the fall, it is the grassroots who will be working indefatigably to defeat Democrats, even in states with milquetoast Republican candidates.
We have always built the majorities, yet the GOP beltway boys have always dismantled our majorities and disenfranchised us by voting with Democrats on key policy initiatives. As such, it’s only fair that we have a say in choosing the nominees for whom we will work our butts off to elect in the fall.
An indeed, if we don’t work hard in the primaries, Republicans might still win back the majority (although if McConnell wins the primary, he might cost us the majority by losing his seat), but here is what to expect from the anointed leader:
“This election season, Republicans led by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are taking a much harder line as they sense the majority within reach. Top congressional Republicans and their allies are challenging the advocacy groups head on in an aggressive effort to undermine their credibility. The goal is to deny them any Senate primary victories, cut into their fund-raising and diminish them as a future force in Republican politics.
“I think we are going to crush them everywhere,” Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, said in an interview, referring to the network of activist organizations working against him and two Republican incumbents in Kansas and Mississippi while engaging in a handful of other contests. “I don’t think they are going to have a single nominee anywhere in the country.”
If only McConnell showed such moxie against Reid and Obama on passing liberal legislation and raising the debt ceiling!
But let’s travel together into a fantasy land for a moment and assume that McConnell is personally a genuine conservative. Let’s assume that he is merely hamstrung by being in the minority, but will fight like hell for conservatives as the newly-minted majority leader. At best, he is likely to preside over a tenuous majority of 51-52 seats. Facing such a united Democrat opposition, wouldn’t he want the most reliable conservative votes in order to navigate through the legislative process?
Yet, McConnell has said he will work to reelect every single liberal incumbent and ensure that conservative grassroots are defeated “anywhere in the country.” Again, let’s assume that McConnell is chomping at the bit to push a conservative legislative agenda; why in the world would he want to reelect Senators like Lamar Alexander, Thad Cochran, and Lindsey Graham from bright red states like Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Carolina?
Putting aside those “troublesome” groups like Heritage Action for a moment, these members have terrible scores even from McConnell’s pro-amnesty allies at the American “Conservative” Union. Cochran and Alexander each scored a 60 and Graham scored a 68. And in the case of Graham, not only does he often vote with Democrats, he actually relishes dissenting from the party and spearheading liberal initiatives while whipping votes for Senator Chuck Schumer. Lindsey Graham is a nightmare for any party leader who wants to push a united conservative front.
The other backbenchers can be picked off at any moment. And even those like Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) will clearly revert to his Kathleen Sebelius days were he to win his primary and no longer fear a reprisal from conservatives. Wouldn’t a committed conservative leader of a small majority – even one who is not necessarily a Tea Party type – want reliable fighters like Milton Wolf and Chris McDaniel, especially given the fact that they hail from states with no viable Democrat challenger?
But, alas, we must relinquish that tantalizing thought and return to reality. Indeed Mitch McConnell is not committed to one iota of a conservative agenda.
It is precisely because he is a finger lickin’ fraud – one who evinces a conservative image back home but stabs us in the back in D.C. – that he wants people like Graham, Alexander, and Cochran to remain in the Senate. He wants them to be reliable votes for “must-pass” Democrat bills that he doesn’t want to publicly support.
It is precisely because, as George Will has suggested, McConnell wants to pass amnesty, that he would never support real conservative candidates.
It is precisely because he supports the agenda of K Street and his money-bundlers that he needs liberal Republicans to muddle up the conference.
It is precisely because McConnell becomes even more liberal when in the majority that he doesn’t want any bold reformers pushing bold legislation during a presidential cycle.
And it is precisely because of the prospect of McConnell presiding over a majority populated by failed politicians that we must take action now.
It’s time to build an enduring majority.
Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Elections
The open U.S. Senate seat in Georgia has created a number of vacancies in the state’s U.S. House delegation, providing Republican voters with an opportunity to utilize this red state to elect constitutional conservatives. With Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) vacating the seat in the First Congressional district, we can either move this seat to the right or elect a failed career politician. Our choice is to elect Dr. Bob Johnson, a career Army Ranger, surgeon, small business owner, and articulate conservative grassroots candidate.
For those who are looking for the prototype of a Tea Party candidate, Dr. Johnson is the superlative example. He spent most of his adult life in the military as an Army Ranger and a doctor. He also served as a surgeon in a military hospital for four years. After retiring from the service in 2001, Johnson opened up a private practice specializing in head and neck cancer surgery.
Although he never engaged in politics until he announced his bid for Congress last year, his intuitive common sense and impressive background has imbued him with a strong set of conservative principles and policy ideas, the likes of which we’ve seen in few candidates this cycle.
Dr. Johnson is the epitome of a candidate who doesn’t need, or necessarily want, this job. He is pledging term limits and plans to return to private life after serving in Congress. In fact, he continues to work as a surgeon while campaigning on nights and on weekends. But he realized that the country is deteriorating and that there is no viable alternative party in Washington. By default, this seat would have lurched even farther to the left with state senator Buddy Carter (R-GA) as the presumptive nominee. Johnson feared that south Georgia would be stuck with another Boehner yes-man instead of a fighter for constitutional free-market policy solutions and conservative traditional values.
Speaking with Dr. Johnson about the issues was a pleasure because he moves beyond the talking points and commits to specific solutions.
As a veteran and a physician, Johnson recognizes that he is well qualified to speak out on foreign, military, and veterans’ affairs.
He has articulated the problems with the void of free market healthcare financing (even before Obamacare) more than most other candidates. To that end, he will boldly push for reforms of our broken government-run veterans’ healthcare system and will not be intimidated by the Democrats’ use of veterans as political human shields. In fact, he will boldly pin the blame of poor quality healthcare on the failing VA system and advocate for a more private system with better quality care, cheaper costs, and quicker delivery.
As someone who is uniquely experienced in counter-terrorism, Johnson will fight GOP leaders on their policy of open borders and their myopic immigration priorities. Johnson will have no problem telling the insecure establishment politicians and their overpaid lobbyists they can’t buy amnesty with K-Street money.
As someone who worked on national security issues in the military, Johnson is running to fill the vacuum in the Republican Party on military and foreign affairs. He will fight against the administration’s war on the military, which includes the downsizing of our core assets, dyslexic rules of engagement, and social experimentation.
As a strong Christian and believer in the 10th Amendment, Dr. Bob will not shy away from speaking out against unelected judges redefining marriage and coercing private citizens to accommodate the alternative lifestyles of the radical left.
Despite working as a full-time surgeon, Johnson has been outspoken on every legislative battle during this campaign, letting voters know exactly where he would stand in the current intra-party divide.
Johnson will fight for us every day of his self-term-limited tenure in Washington. But if we don’t rally behind him, we will be stuck with liberal Buddy Carter. Carter is the quintessential career politician who has spent years in Atlanta pushing tax increases on transportation, energy, and the internet. He advocated against fighting Obamacare on a state level and doesn’t seem to be too outraged by the law, noting during his campaign kickoff speech that the law “so far is not so bad.”
The contrast cannot be any starker and the choice is ours to make. Over the years, we have ignored quiet open-seat House races like this one and have paid dearly by electing the wrong Republicans. It’s time for the movement to take yes for an answer and rally to Dr. Johnson for the May 20th Primary and the ensuing runoff.
Thursday, March 6th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Economy
The reason many of us don’t trust the current crop of Republicans to actually downsize existing federal programs is because they often agree to create new government interventions into the private sector.
Case in point? Yesterday’s obscure vote to create a new program within the Department of Energy.
It has become clear this year that House Republicans have no interest in forcing a fight on must-pass legislation nor do they have the stomach to pass stand-alone bills that draw a sharp contrast on contentious issues, such as illegal immigration, religious liberty, and gay marriage. They don’t want to address other conservative solutions, such as devolving transportation and education to the states or repealing the pernicious ethanol mandate, which raises the cost of food and fuel – all great issues to promote during an election year. Instead, they want to run out the clock and squander their time in the majority passing the most innocuous bills.
To that end, they have spent most of their time pushing these “non-controversial” suspension bills, which need a two-thirds majority to pass. One of those bills that passed the House yesterday was H.R. 2126 – Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2014, sponsored by liberal Republican David McKinley (WV) and Reps. Peter Welch (D-VT). Here is a synopsis of the bill from CRS:
Amends the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to require the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Assistant Secretary of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to study the feasibility of: (1) significantly improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings through the design and construction of separate spaces with high-performance energy efficiency measures, and (2) encouraging owners and tenants to implement such measures in separate spaces. Requires the Secretary to publish such study on DOE’s website.
Requires the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a voluntary Tenant Star program within the Energy Star program to recognize tenants in commercial buildings that voluntarily achieve high levels of energy efficiency in separate spaces. Requires DOE’s Administrator of the Energy Information Administration to collect data on categories of building occupancy that consume significant quantities of energy and on other aspects of the property, building operation, or building occupancy determined to be relevant to lowering energy consumption. Prohibits the impact on climate change from being a factor in determining energy efficiency of commercial building tenants.
Talk about picking winners and losers! This opens the door to the government collecting data on construction of private buildings and incentivizing specific behavior through green venture socialism. As always, these things start out as voluntary propositions, but quickly morph into full-blown mandates.
Also, like most green energy programs, the DOE will carefully craft the grant programs to benefit liberal crony capitalists who can’t sell their sub-par product or service in the free market without the extra boost from government.
Moreover, why are we adding another program to a department that Republicans [were supposed to] believe serves no constructive purpose?
At some point we need to ask why Republicans feel so uncomfortable being in the majority that they have to fill their time passing Democrat bills.
And unlike some of the other suspension bills, this is not an isolated measure that will stall out in the Senate. The Welch/McKinley bill overlaps with a broader Shaheen-Portman bill that has been percolating through the Senate for the past few years. They recently introduced another iteration of the bill and can now point to the fact that 86 percent of House Republicans supported much of the foundation for their legislation. Rep. Welch has already said that passage of this bill “provides a clear path to conference” with the Senate. They might take up this bill as early as next week.
Passage of this bill marks a new milestone for the GOP establishment. First they gave Senate Democrats a de facto super-majority with a number of Republicans voting with them on key issues. Then House Republicans began rubber-stamping some of their bad bills, often in violation of the Hastert Rule. Now they are pre-emptively passing Senate Democrat legislation in the House even before Reid takes up the bill!
At some point we are going to learn that a GOP majority does not have much utility unless we replace the current roster of failed leaders.
Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Elections, Immigration
Mitch McConnell’s minions on K Street and at the NRSC have been accusing us of helping elect Democrats by challenging liberal Republicans in primaries. Even though their elected Republicans are consistently giving aid and comfort to the Democrats, they scandalously claim that we are the ones helping Democrats because we want to remove the Democrat-oriented Republicans. Yes, my head hurts as well.
Now take a look at this story from the New York Times about FWD, the pro-amnesty Republican group backed by Zuckerberg, running attack ads against Republicans.
A new, 60-second ad aimed squarely at Republican lawmakers seeks to compel them to push through a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. Adopting a sharper tone, the ad blames House Republicans for holding up the immigration legislation that has currently stalled in Congress.
“No one debates we need to fix our broken immigration system,” the narrator says. “Republican leaders know it. They’ve even said so time and again. So why are House Republicans cooling, retreating, and even privately saying they’d rather do nothing this year?”
The spot is the work of the Council for American Job Growth, an affiliate of FWD.us, the nonprofit advocacy group created by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, and others to push for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. The council is spending roughly $500,000 on airtime for the commercial, which begins running Monday nationally and is expected to appear in all 50 states for about two weeks.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. A group run by former GOP operatives are attacking House Republicans during an election year for not passing amnesty – the biggest legislative priority of the Democrat Party!
And guess who works for FWD?
Billy Piper, a former McConnell Chief of Staff lobbies for FWD.
Rob Jesmer, a former NRSC executive director, now works for FWD, and is in charge of putting out the lying ads.
So the next time McConnell and his disciples accuse you of helping elect Democrats by fighting for conservative principles tell them to look in the mirror and reflect on their own profit for perfidy scandal.
Monday, March 3rd, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Immigration
From listening to proponents of open borders speak about immigration, one would come away with the impression that we have just experienced a protracted period of low immigration. They contend that our “limited legal immigration” has engendered a need for people to migrate here illegally. However, the Census Bureau published new numbers illuminating a fact that is self-evident to anyone who has studied immigration: we have already gone through a “second great wave of immigration.”
Here is the key takeaway from the Census update, which was cited by Alex Bolton in The Hill over the weekend:
Many Americans can trace their ancestral roots to the “great wave” of immigration that occurred during the late 1800s and early 1900s. This is not surprising, as the foreign-born population grew rapidly during this period, doubling in size from 6.7 million in 1880 to 14.2 million in 1930. Between 1880 and 1930, the foreign-born population represented between 12 and 15 percent of the total population.
As immigration to the United States slowed after 1930 and the resident foreign-born population either died off or emigrated, the size of that population continued to decline, falling to 9.6 million in 1970, the lowest level in the 20th century. Less than 5 percent of the total population in 1970 – or less than one in 20 people – were foreign-born.
However, over the last four decades, the United States has experienced what many are calling the “second great wave” of immigration. Since 1970, the foreign-born population has continuously increased in size and as a percentage of the total U.S. population. The foreign-born population quadrupled after 1970, reaching 40.0 million by 2010, and about 13 percent of the total population – or one in eight – were foreign-born.
Once again, the country is approaching a percentage of foreign-born not seen since the late 1800s and early 1900s. Will this proportion continue to increase, perhaps exceeding the high of nearly 15 percent achieved in both 1890 and 1910?
This is the simple historical context that has eluded 90 percent of the politicians in Washington. With over 1 million new immigrants every year for most of the past three decades, the foreign-born population is now approaching 41 million. Obviously, the sheer size of the current wave of immigration is unprecedented, while the percentage increase is approaching the proportion of the Great Wave era – a time when the country was relatively new and underpopulated.
During the ‘20s, there was a broad consensus of the need to cool down the pace of immigration to allow for absorption and assimilation. Remember, we did not have a robust welfare state or separatist lobbies like La Raza at the time. The ensuing “cool-off” period clearly netted positive results, as the immigrants from the Great Wave became absorbed into the fabric of America and helped build the country into what it is today.
It’s not surprising that the presidential elections from 1968-1992, which represent the GOP’s most auspicious political era at the federal level, overlapped with the period of time when the first great wave had completely assimilated and the second great wave had not yet affected the outcome of elections in a significant way. If not for Watergate and Jimmy Carter running as a southern conservative, Republicans would have won every election in a landslide.
Fast-forward three decades, and GOP policymakers and politicians are living in a dream world. In terms of policy, the second great wave matches or exceeds the magnitude of the first wave in every respect. Also, we now have a robust welfare system and separatist lobbies to ensure that newly arrived immigrants, many of them impoverished and from the third world, don’t seek upward mobility or absorption into the broad population.
The policy vices of doubling the current record-baseline of immigration should be sufficient to give Republicans pause about passing a Democrat version of “immigration reform.” However, because they often sell amnesty and immigration expansion as an electoral boon for the party, it’s important that we challenge their agenda on political grounds as well. With the level of immigration approaching record-high levels under the current trajectory, from which what planet have these people originated to suggest that doubling immigration will do anything other than create a permanent Democrat majority?
As the national average of foreign-born residents exceeds 13 percent, many states have a much higher concentration of immigrants. According to CBO, Nevada, Florida, New York, and New Jersey all have an immigrant population higher than 18 percent of the respective state’s population. California tops out at 26.1 percent as of 2012.
As the Census report notes, it’s unclear whether the population swell from the second great wave has already crested or whether there is more to come. The accompanying report on the immigrant population under the age of 35, seems to suggest that the trend could continue and that it has already grown since 2012. Any Republican who thinks they can win by doubling that baseline is not grounded in reality.
Obviously, the most important issues pertaining to immigration include an end to illegal immigration, protecting our national security from terrorists, and finally ending the cycle of open borders. But at some point, Republicans will have to address the issue of immigration in terms of quantity. Immigration benefits a country at large. And for those who benefit the broad population (as opposed to narrow special interests), we should make the process easier and cheaper. But how much? Over what period of time?
There is no simple answer to that question. But those who seek to address it should not be dismissed as “anti-immigrant” by those who peddle special interest policies without the best interests of the country in mind. And either way, coming off the longest expansion of immigration in American history, should we really consider doubling the current level without batting an eyelash?
To quote John Boehner, “are you kidding me?!!”
Friday, February 28th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Immigration
At the beginning of the year, Speaker John Boehner made it clear that he wanted the Republican Party to provide an “alternative” agenda – one that would be distinct from Obama’s policies. Sadly, as we have all witnessed over the past few months, the party leadership serves as nothing but a faint echo to Obama’s agenda, obsequious to his every whim.
Earlier today, Boehner met with Obama at the White House to discuss several policy issues. The following tweet from ABC’s Jonathan Karl tells you everything you need to know about Boehner and the broader agenda of the GOP establishment:
It is quite evident that if we don’t get rid of Boehner and his bootlickers, we will face a bipartisan oligarchy pushing amnesty and a permanent Democrat majority. And we will have nobody to blame but ourselves.
Meanwhile, this bipartisan consensus on amnesty is actually breaking our borders as we speak. The L.A. Times reported last week that there has been a surge in border crossings of Central American youths. Presumably, they have gotten the message on their smart phones that there is now a consensus to allow in any illegal who comes here as a youngster. The Times also reports that 125,000 of those youths granted amnesty by Obama are now eligible for Medi-Cal. I guess a few million more on the welfare rolls won’t make a difference.
And remember, the surge in impoverished youths will benefit our economy beyond measure.
John Boehner is wondering out loud why conservative groups are “beating up on him,” but privately he knows exactly why we are upset. He has declared war on conservatives. It’s time we return fire.
Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Economy, Taxes
Yesterday, Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), the House Ways Committee Chairman, released his draft proposal for comprehensive tax reform. The mere proposition of positive tax reform is a welcome development. Even though we clearly lack the votes to enact any tax reform until at least 2017, it is still important to stand on bold colors and offer an alternative vision to the current socialist path from this administration.
On the other hand, if we are going to propose Republican ideas for tax reform just for messaging purposes, we should put forth the boldest tax plan possible – one that embraces completely the concepts of fair and flat and not one that is tendentious or punitive towards any group of people or individual. It’s not that a compromised version of tax reform isn’t better than the status quo, but because this is an exercise in messaging, we should propose a bill that fully adopts conservative principles and eschews every premise of class warfare. The purpose is to talk about ideas and principles, not try and win points for being measured in our approach.
The conservative principle of any tax reform – short of wholesale repeal of the 16th Amendment and implementation of the Fair Tax – should have the following goals in mind: it should tax everyone at the same low rate (at least on all income above a certain minimum), that rate should be just enough to net the minimal amount of revenue to sustain a constitutional government, and done so in a way that engenders the least amount of disincentives to produce and invest in the economy.
Obviously, we have to deal with a short-term reality that we don’t have a constitutional form of government and the current obligations require a certain level of revenue. But the closer a tax plan gets to following those principles, the more utility it will have in uniting us behind a starting point for future negotiations.
With these principles in mind, it is fair to say the Camp proposal is, at best, a mixed bag. Here are some of the key proposals for the tax code pertaining to individuals:
- Individual Marginal Rates: Camp’s bill would collapse the current system of seven tax brackets into just two levels of 25 percent and 10 percent. Hence, the top marginal rate would be reduced from 39.6 percent to 25 percent. It’s not the preferred flat tax, but at least it’s headed in the right direction. The tax cut is further enhanced by expanding the standard deductions to $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for married couples – up from $6,100 and $12,200 respectively. [However, a portion of that tax cut would be offset by repealing the $3,900 personal exemption.]
- It abolishes the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax).
- The deduction for state and local taxes would be eliminated. In theory, this is a good thing because we don’t need the federal government to soften the blow of high taxation in blue states, thereby shielding bad actors in local government from the wrath of their constituents. However, as is the case with the mortgage interest deduction [see below], eliminating deductions is only a net positive if marginal rates are dropped low enough to engender a decrease in the effective tax rate. Under this plan, it’s conceivable that some people will see their effective tax rates increase.
- The plan gets rid of all the green energy social engineering in the tax code.
- Surtax: If Camp would have stopped at lowering the top marginal rate to 25%, it wouldn’t be perfect but it would represent serious progress. However, his plan would impose a 10 percent surtax on certain types of earned income over $450,000 a year. This is a big shout-out to Obama-style class warfare and fundamentally accepts their false premise that the tax code is not progressive enough. What’s worse this surtax would apply to healthcare benefits (and the deduction for self-employed), contributions to retirement accounts, and untaxed Social Security benefits. If the point is messaging with this plan, including this provision does nothing but solidify the class warfare argument as an accepted premise.
- Mortgage Interest Deduction: Under this proposal, the $1 million limitation on the mortgage interest deduction would gradually be lowered to $500,000. The mortgage interest deduction is the biggest market-distorting provision in the tax code, inducing an inflationary effect in the housing market. In a true limited government/free market system, we would have a perfectly flat tax at a very low rate, and then completely abolish this deduction. However, the Camp plan only reduces the rate to 25% with those earning over $400,000 paying a de facto rate of 35%. So cutting down on the deduction could represent a massive tax increase, especially when coupled with the elimination of other deductions. Although conservatives would like to see this deduction repealed, under the Camp system it would be better to leave it alone. There are also a number of phase-outs of itemized deductions and the standard deduction for higher income earners.
- Although Camp would make cuts to the Earned Income Credit, he would expand the Child Tax Credit from $1,000 per child to $1,500, and increase it with inflation. If we would abolish the refundable nature of the credit (the ability to make money after zeroing out the tax liability), this would represent pro-growth, family-oriented reform. However, this change would increase the cap on the refundable portion of the tax credit from 15 percent of earned income [under current law] to 25 percent.
- Capital Gains: Under current law, investment income is taxed at a flat rate of 20 percent. Under this proposal, 40 percent of one’s annual investment income would be completely exempt but the other 60 percent would be taxed at the rate of the filer’s income. This is a surreptitious way of raising capital gains taxes on those in the new 35 percent tax bracket.
Overall, the basic components of the plan are a step in the right direction. But when you cut through the changes in deductions and phase-outs, it is clear that many people at the top – those who already pay 38 percent of the income taxes, will be hit with higher effective tax rates. Additionally, it’s likely that the plan would make the tax code even more progressive.
A flatter, lower tax rate without deductions is the best path to real tax reform, but it all depends on how low the marginal rates are dropped and how severely the deductions are cut. The balance in this bill is a bit concerning. And the myriad of proposals used to sneak in tax hikes actually run counter to the original purpose of the Camp bill – to make the tax code simpler.
Camp should be applauded for moving beyond platitudes and actually proposing a specific reform plan. But if this is meant to be used as a messaging tool, much of the proposal is not grounded in conservative principles of tax reform.
Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Obamacare
Unlike many modern-day functions of the federal government, caring for our wounded warriors is a core responsibility. But as is the case with other government programs, liberals think that doubling down on a woefully inadequate VA system and throwing more money at the problem will improve care for veterans. And similar to most other big government initiatives, Democrats are now using a highly-respected group of Americans as political human shields to obfuscate the harmful effects of their policies.
After 50 years so-called war on poverty, and after flushing roughly $20 trillion in inflation-adjusted spending on mean-tested programs, the poverty rate has increased from 14.7 percent to 16 percent. Yet, liberals want to invest even more in the same failed programs in order to create dependency and perpetuation of their own power. So they dub any opponent of their failed policies as working against “the poor.”
The same applies to their use of children to justify the failure of our endless federal education spending. As the Cato Institute notes, inflation-adjusted spending for a complete K-12 education has tripled since 1970 while educational scores have remained stagnant. Yet, Republicans have always been reluctant to push for real reform by devolving authority of education to the states because they don’t want to be “anti-children.”
This week, Democrats plan to take their exploitation show down the road and blow up the VA system – all to help veterans. They know that as long as they shout “veteran” in a crowded theater, their opponents will run for the hills. The Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits Pay Restoration Act S. 1982, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders (Socialist-VT), will expand and overburden the already-fledgling VA system and jeopardize the quality and access of healthcare for wounded veterans.
Under current law, all wounded veterans are fully covered under the VA healthcare system. All those who leave active duty remain in the system for a few years until they transition into new coverage in civilian life. But every veteran is potentially eligible for VA services – even those without disabilities – as long as they agree to co-pays. The VA has a tier system to prioritize service to those who suffered a disability or are most in need of the care.
The Sanders bill would make two major changes: 1) it would expand full VA coverage even to those who have no disability if they get their insurance through an Obamacare exchange. Thus, the potential addition of millions more in the system would prevent the VA from prioritizing those who are wounded in combat or suffered a disability through their tour of duty. 2) the bill will expand the scope of coverage for veterans to include gym membership, weight loss programs.
Let’s step back for a moment and analyze the repercussions of the bill. Despite an increased budget from $85 billion to over $138 billion since 2008, the VA is as dysfunctional and woefully inadequate as ever. According to the Washington Examiner, VA hospitals have, once again, been caught falsifying records in order to cover up the scandalous backlogs in care. Now, Democrats are proposing to clog the system of poorly treated wounded veterans with millions more of lesser priority. There is no way they could ever build enough facilities quickly enough to properly care for the exponential increase in responsibility – effective immediately.
CBO estimates that this bill will cost over $23 billion, but it is hard to imagine that placing millions more into single-payer healthcare would not cost hundreds of billions more.
Instead of exacerbating a failing system, we need to streamline the bureaucracy of the VA and structurally reform the programs before we waste more money. In the long-term, we need to look at opening up the VA system to competition from the private sector. The federal government must definitely take care of our veterans, but locking them into a government-run bureaucracy is not doing them any favors. The VA is a superlative example of the failures of government-run healthcare, and our wounded warriors deserve better.
We need a system that fully pays for disabled veterans to purchase private health insurance and other healthcare services while subsidizing other veterans in varying degrees based on time and scope of service. Liberal demagogues taint a voucher system as throwing veterans out in the cold, but it is actually their failed policies that are underserving them. Besides, why should our veterans be confined to a limited array of healthcare providers and have to drive hours to a VA facility when they need care? We would always have military hospitals for those who are severely wounded in action or have sustained wounds unique to a war theater, but the general population of veterans would be better served in a private healthcare system.
A private option for veterans would not only save money and reduce the size of the government, but more importantly, it would deliver better quality and faster care to our wounded warriors. Together with general free market healthcare reforms, it would reduce the need for veterans to be dependent on government – the antithesis of the Democrat approach.
Monday, February 24th, 2014 by Daniel Horowitz and is filed under Blog, Elections
The unambiguous strategy of the GOP establishment this year has been to avoid any and all confrontation in the hopes of gliding into a Senate majority in 2015. To that end, they have capitulated on all of the major leverage points, passed a number of Democrat spending bills, and are in the process of pushing “small-ball” legislation in the House so as not to rock the boat before November.
This pusillanimous strategy is predicated on the false hope that a bare-minimum Senate majority – comprised of the same Republicans who support these Democrat priorities – will somehow alter the landscape in Washington. They are misleading conservative and GOP activists into thinking that as long as the GOP can hold tight on the status quo until 2015 we will enjoy robust power to push for conservative priorities thereafter.
The reality is that nothing will change in 2015. Irrespective of the outcome in November, Republicans will control the House and have the ability to block bad legislation. On the other hand, President Obama will still be in the White House for another two years. Consequently, the addition of six more Senate seats with the current incumbent leaders and rank-and-file members will not change the legislative dynamic.
Republicans who lack the will or principles to fight on major issues will still use Obama’s obstructionism as the baseline for excuses not to advocate bold initiatives. Whether it’s a debt ceiling or a budget bill, they will fear brinkmanship with Obama as much as they do now.
What about blocking bad bills? Certainly Republicans will have the power to do so if they win back the Senate, won’t they?
Well, they already have the power to stop bad bills with control of the House, yet, time and again, we have seen a de facto Democrat super-majority in the Senate pass harmful legislation only to be rubber-stamped by the House – or at least open for consideration.
Unless we elect the right candidates for Senate, a weak GOP majority would still net enough votes to pass amnesty, an internet sales tax, omnibus bills, highway bills, or the anti-liberty “ENDA” bill.
Moreover, in some respects, these same Republicans will be even more frightened to fight for a bold conservative agenda in 2015. As much as they would have us believe that a GOP Senate-majority is the road to the Promised Land, it will be overshadowed by the presidential election the minute they take office.
If Republicans are recalcitrant to stand for anything ahead of a midterm election, imagine how fearful they will be to even stick their fingers in the wind with the White House at stake.
“Well, we can’t get anything done without the White House anyway,” they will contend. “Let’s not undermine the effort to win the presidency by picking fights with Obama.”
The entirety of the 114th Congress will be driven by fear of 2016.
Ok, but wait until 2017 when Republicans control everything. Then they will really fight for a decisive conservative agenda and will overturn every inimical policy of the Obama administration.
Maybe in some dreamland, folks.
With control of all branches of government, and the undivided responsibility that comes with such power, Republicans will be even more indisposed to roll back big government. “How can we risk losing power?”
Furthermore, let’s remember that many of the same arguments promulgated by Republicans in the minority will persist even when they are in control of the White House. These same hackneyed politicians have already agreed to the Democrat premise of default. So they will feel compelled to raise the debt ceiling even with full control of the government.
The current crew of GOP leaders has already agreed to the Democrat premise on immigration. That will not change when they are in the majority.
They have already accepted the notion of a permanent federal control over transportation and agriculture policy. That will not change when they are in power.
Republicans have made it clear that they will not publicly fight back against the growing anti-religious–liberty agenda forcing alternative lifestyles on private citizens and organizations.
In fact, these same non-leaders tend to be at their best specifically when they are in the minority. The allurement of power only moves them to the left when they are the majority party in Washington.
Hence, whether we are talking about 2015, 2017, or well beyond, there is never an end-game for these politicians. The pursuit of power over principle; the quest for authority for its own sake is a circuitous cycle of failure.
The only way to end the failed cycle of politics is to change the way we approach primaries. This year would be a great time to start.
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