March 28, 2015

A Thought on Taxation and Statism

"Those who create the wealth naturally want to keep it and devote it to their own purposes. Those who wish to expropriate it look for ever more-clever ways to acquire it without inciting resistance. One of those ways is the spreading of an elaborate ideology of statism, which teaches that the people are the state and that therefore they are only paying themselves when they pay taxes."

~ Sheldon Richman

Source: page 215, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

HT Robert W. Wood, Forbes magazine.

March 27, 2015

Concern About Environment Down; Global Warming Least

Does Arlington County's member of Congress share the same environmental concerns as the constituents he serves? Let's start by looking at the concerns expressed in a recent Gallup survey.

At CNS News on Wednesday, Michael Chapman reports that "Americans’ concern over environmental issues such as water and air pollution and extinction of species is down from last year, and the data show that of all green issues, Americans worry the least about global warming (or climate change)." He cites this Gallup survey as his source.

In writing about their survey, Gallup's Jeffrey Jones highlights three points:

  • Worry about most problems down after increasing in 2014
  • Americans are most worried about polluted drinking water
  • Americans worry least about global warming

He continues, explaining:

"The results are based on Gallup's annual Environment survey, conducted March 5-8. Gallup trends on many of these items stretch back more than two decades. Last year's increased worry has proved temporary, with the current level of worry on each of the problems back to about where it was in 2013.

"Despite ups and downs from year to year in the percentage worried about the various issues, the rank order of the environmental problems has remained fairly consistent over the decades. Americans express greater concern over more proximate threats -- including pollution of drinking water, as well as pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and air pollution -- than they do about longer-term threats such as global warming, the loss of rain forests, and plant and animal extinction.

"The amount Americans worry about the various threats tends to rise and recede in unison, with concern higher in the late 1980s and early 1990s during the revival of environmentalism, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s amid the economic boom. Since then, Americans' worry has fallen, with concern dipping to record lows on most issues in 2010 or 2011. The current level of worry on each issue remains at or near those record lows."

Gallup provides the following chart, showing the trends in American's environmental concerns:

In his story for CNS News, Chapman described the politics involved, writing:

"When Gallup broke the data down by political party, Republican versus Democrat, it found that only 13% of Republicans worry a “great deal” about global warming in 2015 while 52% of Democrats worry a “great deal” about the issue.

“Democrats worry more than Republicans about all of the issues,” said Gallup.  “Notably, Democrats are more worried about global warming now than they were in 2000, perhaps reflecting the shift in the focus of the environmental agenda toward this issue.”

Investor's Business Daily (IBD) also reported on Gallup's environmental survey. IBD's Kerry Jackson wrote:

"For all the fright-mongering of the last quarter century, Americans still aren't getting too heated up about global warming."

< . . . >

"Given the narrative that's been pushed for decades, the relative lack of concern about global warming is somewhat surprising. Frankly, it appears the effort to instill fear has failed.

"Gallup says that "Americans' worry about it is no higher now than when Gallup first asked about it in 1989."

"Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who believe global warming will never happen or not happen in their lifetimes decreased a single percentage point from 34% to 33%, both numbers off the all-time high of 35% of 2010 and 2011, but still significantly higher than the mere 23% who believed in 2006 that it would not happen.

"The portion who believe it has already begun crept up to 55% from 54%. But that's down from highs of 60% in 2007 and 61% in 2008.

"Perhaps most important is the fact that the percentage of Americans who "believe increases in the Earth's temperature over the last century" are natural has gone from 33% in 2001 to 41% this year, and at the same time the portion who believe that man has indeed caused the Earth to heat has fallen from 61% in 2001 to 55% in 14 years.

"This is the reality of models' projections vs. observed temperatures hitting home."

Apparently, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Virginia), who represents Arlington County, Alexandria, Falls Church, and portions of Fairfax County, has views much different from Americans in the Gallup survey. According to an  Atlanta Journal-Constitution news report today:

"After a long career as a car dealer, lieutenant governor and ambassador, Democrat Don Beyer was elected to the U.S. of House Representatives last year with a focus on protecting the planet against climate change.

"Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia’s 8th District, reiterated his goal in a March 4 column for the Falls Church News-Press, calling global warming the “existential crisis of our generation, and of course the preeminent environmental issue.”

“More than 7,000 Americans lost their lives to climate change-fueled events last year,” he wrote.

"Beyer posted a similar statement on his congressional website on Feb. 4, saying climate change caused “almost 7,000” U.S. deaths last year. We wondered whether his claim is correct and asked for the source of Beyer’s information.

"Thomas Scanlon, a spokesman for Beyer, said the congressman’s office had made a mistake about the 7,000 deaths. “That number should be globally, not just in the United States,” he emailed. “We made an error in editing this column for FCNP.”

But apparently even the 7,000 worldwide deaths cannot be verified, and as a result, PolitiFact Virginia at the Richmond Times-Dispatch gave their ruling, writing:

"Beyer wrote, "More than 7,000 Americans lost their lives to climate change-fueled events last year." The congressman lacks documentation and admits he got his facts wrong. That makes our work easy: We rate Beyer’s statement False."

And at the Daily Caller, Michael Bastasch, who frequently writes on global warming topics, says Beyer's claim is "wildly untrue." He writes:

"The misleading nature of Beyer’s claim goes even further; to the heart of the global warming debate. Democrats and environmentalists have been working hard to try and tie in nearly every natural disaster or severe weather event to global warming.

"Indeed, Beyer himself argued that “[g]lobal temperature changes are causing prolonged droughts, extreme weather events and rising sea levels” adding that “[m]illions more are at risk unless we act to reverse the disastrous effects.” But such claims are dangerously misleading.

"First off, there is no evidence that natural disasters have gotten more severe due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or warmer temperatures. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change itself says there’s “limited evidence of changes in extremes associated with other climate variables since the mid-20th century.”

"IPCC data shows “no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century. … No robust trends in annual numbers of tropical storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes counts have been identified over the past 100 years in the North Atlantic basin.”

“In summary, there continues to be a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale,” the IPCC found, adding that “that there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness (lack of rainfall) since the middle of the 20th century due to lack of direct observations, geographical inconsistencies in the trends.”

You can read Rep. Don Beyer's February 4, 2015 Falls Church News Presse commentary in which he makes the claim about 7,000 deaths here.

Growls readers wishing to tell their member of Congress to join their constituents are encourage to write their members of Congress. Ask them why they aren't dealing with the real concerns of the American people. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

Ask for a written response. And, tell them ACTA sent you.

March 26, 2015

CAGW Names March 2015 Porker of the Month

Porker of the Month -- "dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers."

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, has "named Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator “Big Sister” Gina McCarthy as its March Porker of the Month for her agency’s creepy plan to monitor the hotel shower habits of millions of Americans."

CAGW provides the following justification for naming Ms. McCarthy its Porker of the Month for March 2015:

"The EPA’s $15,000 grant to the University of Tulsa, under the People, Prosperity and the Planet student design competition for sustainability, “aims to develop a novel low cost wireless device for monitoring water use from hotel guest room showers.  This device will be designed to fit most new and existing hotel shower fixtures and will wirelessly transmit hotel guest water usage data to a central hotel accounting system.” The monitoring device will be coupled with a smartphone app that would allow the user to access hotel water usage anytime, anywhere.

"Beyond monitoring guests’ shower usage, the EPA has is snooping around other aspects of hotel hygiene and cleanliness. The agency’s WaterSense Challenge program asks hotels to track “water use and upgrade their restrooms with low-flow toilets and showerheads” and “encourages linen and towel reuse programs.”

"In response to those that claim the agency is infringing on Americans’ personal hygiene habits, EPA Deputy Press Secretary Laura Allen said, “EPA is not monitoring how much time hotel guests spend in the shower.”  And even as the EPA, rather than the private sector, is spending money on this project, Allen assured everyone that, “The marketplace, not EPA, will decide if there is a demand for this type of technology.”

"While the shower grant is certainly not the EPA’s most expensive example of government waste, it is both the most recent and extremely obnoxious. The EPA proposed a rule in March, 2014 that would allow the agency to encroach on private property so long as there is any body of water, from a pond to standard runoff.  As just one example of how the courts are rejecting the agency’s overreaching regulations, in this case over greenhouse gases, the Supreme Court ruled on June 23, 2014 that the EPA “has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.”

"Administrator McCarthy requested a 6 percent budget increase of $452 million in the EPA’s budget for fiscal year 2016.  She must feel the agency needs the money to implement the policies contained in the 27,854 pages by which the agency’s regulations have swelled since 2009.

“Even ‘Big Brother’ did not watch what people were doing in the shower,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz.  “Travelers already worry about what they will find in hotel bathrooms.  Knowing the EPA is observing everything that goes on in such a normally private setting will not assuage their concerns.”

"For her agency’s unremitting and intrusive use of taxpayer dollars to intrude on the personal habits of Americans, EPA Administrator “Big Sister” Gina McCarthy is CAGW’s March Porker of the Month."

Kudos to Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for their continued efforts in bring government waste, fraud, and abuse to the attention of American taxpayers.

March 25, 2015

If You Pay Capital Gains Taxes

At the Tax Foundation's Tax Policy blog today, Kyle Pomerleau writes that American taxpayers "face the 6th highest top marginal capital gains tax rate in the OECD.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) consists of "34 countries founded in 1981 to stimulate economic progress and world trade," according to Wikipedia. It "originated in 1948 as the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), led by Robert Marjolin of France, to help administer the Marshall Plan."

Here's how Pomerleau explains it:

"The current federal top marginal tax rate on long-term capital gains in the United States is a total of 23.8 percent (20 percent plus a 3.8 percent tax to fund the Affordable Care Act) for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 ($250,000 married filing jointly) or more. In addition, states and some localities levy taxes on capital gains income, which range from zero percent in states with no individual income tax, such as Florida, Texas, South Dakota, and Wyoming, to 13.3 percent in California.

"An individual who has capital gains income is subject to both federal and state capital gains taxes. Taking into account the federal deductibility of state taxes and the phase-out of itemized deductions, the average top marginal capital gains tax rate faced by U.S. taxpayers is 28.6 percent.

"This is the 6th highest rate in the OECD. Taxpayers in most OECD countries face much lower capital gains tax rates than their counterparts in the United States. Only taxpayers in Denmark (42 percent), France (34.4 percent), Finland (33 percent), Ireland (33 percent), and Sweden (30 percent) face higher rates. The U.S. rate is about 10 percentage points higher than the OECD average (18.4 percent) and 5 percentage points higher than the weighted average (23.2 percent). Nine OECD countries full-exempt most capital gains income." (emphasis added)

Mr. Pomerleau provides the chart below, which shows the U.S. capital gains rate exceeds both the weighted average and simple average OECD capital gains tax rates:

Since Growls readers know that only Congress can change America's tax laws, readers are encourage to write their members of Congress. Ask them what they are doing to reduce America's capital gains tax rates? Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

Ask them for a written response. And, tell them ACTA sent you.

March 22, 2015

Federal Government's Budget Problem in 1 Chart

There may be little or no growling for the next two days.

The latest budget book from the Heritage Foundation features "106 ways to reduce the size and scope of government," but before getting into the thicket, let's look at one of their charts. Actually, the chart below is one of eight Heritage provides that show the growth of various aspects of the the federal government.

Here's the chart, which shows that government doesn't need higher taxes, but rather needs to reduce spending. Note that spending remains above its long-term average of 19.8% while revenues have almost returned to their long-term average of 17.6%.

There are seven other charts that shows how other aspects of the federal government have grown. For example, chart 2 shows the growth in major regulations, chart 4 shows that all tax revenues will go towards entitlements -- primarily Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- and net interest by 2031, and chart 7 shows that sequestration does little to reduce total federal spending.

As we growled two weeks ago, the federal government wasted almost $125 billion last year. Consequently, the recommendations presented by the Heritage Foundation provide material for Growls readers to write their members of Congress. Ask them what they are doing to bring spending under control. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County, should contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -  write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376.

Ask them for a written response. And, tell them ACTA sent you.

March 2015
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Items in Growls are written by individual ACTA members and do not necessarily represent the views of the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, Inc. Please send comments about Growls to The Growl Meister