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December 31, 2015

New Record Set in 2015 for Adding Regulations

As we've growled on numerous occasions, the nation's regulatory burden inhibits economic growth and economic freedom (see here, here, and here, or just use Growls' search facility and search for regulation or regulations).

Consequently, we were troubled by Stephen Dinan's front-page story in today's Washington Times that the Obama administration has "issued a record amount of heft in the federal rule book in 2015 as President Obama’s team, carrying out his orders to work around Congress, pushed his expansive government agenda on environmental, labor and Wall Street policy."

Here's how Dinan develops the story:

"With one day to go, the administration added 81,611 pages to the Federal Register, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s count of the official record-keeping digest of federal agencies’ rule-making. It’s the highest total on record and the third time Mr. Obama has crossed the 80,000-page level during his presidency, the institute’s Clyde Wayne Crews calculated.

“This is the pen and phone era, and the president has made clear he’s going to go around Congress when he gets the chance,” Mr. Crews said. “We expected Congress to do something about it, but it didn’t.”

"Instead, it was the federal court system that challenged the executive branch in 2015, and Mr. Obama was dealt several significant defeats in front of judges who shut down two of his biggest initiatives: to rewrite immigration law and to extend the hand of the federal government to permitting decisions throughout the country.

"The White House Office of Management and Budget, which oversees federal agencies’ rule-making, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s numbers, nor on the legal defeats judges delivered to Mr. Obama this year.

"All told, the administration has proposed 2,334 rules and finalized 3,378 rules and regulations during the year, Mr. Crews said."

"Among several that made headlines was the Food and Drug Administration’s proposal in December to ban people younger than 18 from using tanning beds. Others were particularly hefty and covered major parts of the U.S. economy, including the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality policy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power plan and its effort to extend its power over land-use decisions through its Waters of the U.S. rule.

"Mr. Crews said the size and scope of the regulations are beyond anything seen before. He said with the exception of President Reagan, who managed to limit the Federal Register to under 50,000 pages of new rules and regulations per year, the recent level has usually been around 70,000. But under Mr. Obama it’s been hovering around 80,000.

"That means more government rules constraining businesses and private citizens’ decisions — and acting as a brake on the economy, he said." )emphasis added)

To read the remainder of Dinan's article, click here.

Clyde Wayne Crews writes about the "record year for the Federal Register" at this Competitive Enterprise Institute webpage, and includes the following chart:

Read about the Competitive Enterprise Institute here.

To read more stories by the Washington Times' Stephen Dinan, click here.

Concerned about the cost of federal regulations? If so, take a few minutes, and write to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (1/2/16): At The Hill yesterday, which reports on Capitol Hill, Devin Henry reports, "A slate of major environmental rules rolled out by the Obama administration in 2015 will face serious challenges in the new year, as opponents look to beat back the president’s ambitious policies — a core piece of his legacy."

December 30, 2015

A Thought About Western Society

"Some financial institutions may be considered "too big to fail," but contemporary Western society may be too frivolous to survive. The Romans had bread and circuses to keep the masses passive and unthinking. We have electronic gadgets, drugs and pornography. Like the Roman Empire, we too may decline and fall. What happened in Paris may be just the beginning."

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: his 11/17/15 "random thoughts" column, posted at Townhall.com.

December 24, 2015

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!

                               The Arlington County Taxpayers Association (ACTA)

There may not be any growling until the middle of next week.

December 23, 2015

A Thought on the Retreat of Economic Freedom

"The self-styled "land of the free" is not as free as it once was – or as we in the United States think of ourselves.

"But don't take my word for it.  The U.S. ranks 16th in the Fraser Institute's latest Economic Freedom of the World index – down from second in 2000.  Likewise, studies conducted by the Heritage Foundation reflect a "precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008."  This tumble from the top was inevitable, given the increasing government encroachments on private property rights, numerous government interventions, expansion of federal government spending and regulations, and consequent shrinking of the space for free economic exchange.  And now we are seeing the same downward trend at the state level, as the Fraser Institute's just-released Economic Freedom of North America report (EFNA 2015) reveals.  (EFNA 2015 is based on data from 2013, the most recent available.)

"As its name suggests, the Economic Freedom of North America report ranks and compares the levels of economic freedom across North America and within the U.S., Canada, and Mexico by measuring the size of government, taxation, regulation and labor market restrictions.  In the North America-wide index, the top three jurisdictions are Canadian provinces, with Alberta taking first place, British Columbia coming in second, and Saskatchewan tying for third with New Hampshire.  In EFNA 2010, by way of comparison, there was only one Canadian province in the top 47 jurisdictions measured.  In EFNA 2015, there are eight Canadian provinces in the top 42.

"In other words, it seems states are increasingly following D.C.'s lead by over-spending, over-taxing, over-subsidizing, over-regulating, and undercutting individual liberty.  As a result, many U.S. states are falling behind their Canadian neighbors in economic freedom, just as the U.S. is falling behind its global neighbors."

~ Alan W. Down, Senior Fellow, Fraser Institute

Source: his December 22, 2015 article, "The Retreat of Economic Freedom Continues," posted at American Thinker.

December 22, 2015

A Thought on the Constitution

"And at the center of what is left of the American republic is the Constitution. The Constitution is the bedrock on which the nation was built. As Thomas Jefferson explained, "Our peculiar security is in possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction." These days, the law is frequently used by the statists against the individual -- to exploit his labor and expropriate his property, to repress his free will and compel his conformity. Rather than securing liberty and ensuring justice through the Constitution's prescriptions and proscriptions, the statists' perversion of law has become the government's most potent weapon against its original purpose. Thwarting the steadily growing tyranny of an illimitable federal government by re-establishing constitutional government is of paramount importance if future generations are to live and proper in a free and open society."

~ Mark R. Levin

Source: page 187, “Plunder and Deceit: Big Government’s Exploitation of Young People and the Future.," available at Barnes & Noble.

December 21, 2015

It's Not Just Federal Regulations that Cost Americans

When you mention the regulatory state, most people tend to think of federal regulations. For example, see our June 12, 2015 Growls about the Competitive Enterprise Institute's 2015 edition of "10,000 Commandments" or the November 12, 2015 Growl about the regulatory state.

In a op-ed posted today at Investor's Business Daily (IBD) , Chuck Devore and Salim Furth point out that "some of the most consequential decisions — from a dollars-and-cents standpoint — are made in state legislatures and city halls across the country," going on to explain:

"Those who stand firm against Washington for free markets and mild regulation must also apply those principles at the local level.

"A new research report shows that just 12 policy mistakes at all levels of government add $546 billion a year in consumer costs.

"Fixing those mistakes would save the average household $4,440 a year. Most of the 12 policies examined are federal, but the two costliest are the province of state and local governments.

"Heavy restrictions on property rights impose the greatest costs on consumers.

"Rather than leave landowners the right to build, many municipalities severely restrict construction. Costly land use regulation takes many forms: Parking minimums, zoning laws, height restrictions, and bureaucratic delays. And all of these artificially inflate the cost of housing.

"These differences matter: Developers who work in the two largest states report that a project that would be approved within five months in Texas takes five years in California. (emphasis added)

"If a coastal metropolitan area like Miami or San Francisco adopted land use laws like those of the typical non-coastal area (Austin, Texas, or Dayton, Ohio, for examples), rent would fall 10% and home prices 20%.
That's enough to significantly increase the standard of living for low-income families in those cities and bring homeownership within reach of millions of Americans — without market-distorting government mandates or subsidies.

"As it is, it took the San Francisco Giants eight years (and two World Series wins) just to get permission to build a mixed-use urban development on land near their new stadium. And that was only after the California state legislature passed two bills specifically exempting the project from the state's arcane environmental regulations.

"When policymakers make it that arduous to build apartments, it's no wonder the rent's too damn high!"

After describing the problems of regulations at the state level, Devore and Furth conclude:

"America's ever-thickening web of federal and state regulations and mandates likely cost the economy more than federal and state personal income taxes and corporate taxes combined.

"Reversing a dozen costly policy mistakes would be a great start for a long-overdue house-cleaning."

The research report mentioned in the third paragraph is Salim Furth's Heritage Foundation "Backgrounder" entitled, "Costly Mistakes: How Bad Policies Raise the Cost of Living" (No. 3081, November 23, 2015).

In his research study, Furth estimates that "Americans pay about $209 billion a year extra for housing due to over-regulation of land use." He adds, "For the average household, the cost is $1,700 a year, but the cost is distributed very unequally. Rural families and those living in less-regulated cities are unharmed. Those in expensive metro areas are taken to the cleaners, frequently for over $5,000 per year."

The Arlington County Taxpayers Association (ACTA) were in the center of a four-year land-use battle (2001-2005) in Arlington County more than 10 years ago. They are detailed in three Growls:

Although the Arlington County Board did not take final action on lot coverage until after the November 2004 elections, the September 10 Growls was our last blog entry. For further news, we recommend a trip to Arlington County's Central Library to research the Arlington Sun Gazette.

Kudos to Chuck Devore and Salim Furth for their IBD op-ed, and to Salim Furth and the Heritage Foundation for publishing the study of how bad policy mistakes cost the American people, whether those bad policies occur at the federal, state or local level.

December 20, 2015

CAGW Selects December 2015 Porker of the Month

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

For defending a taxpayers bailout of insurance companies under ObamaCare, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) selected Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) as its December 2015 Porker of the Month.

CAGW justified the selection of Sen. Murray for the dubious honor this way:

"The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) created a temporary “risk corridor” program with the intent of limiting financial losses and gains for insurance companies.  The program was designed to collect payments from insurers who made profits deemed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as too large, and use them to compensate the losses of other insurers.  If this redistributive scheme did not cover the shortfall, the law did not specify how CMS could fill the gap.

"In a November 18, 2013 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned that “Obamacare's risk corridors are designed in such an open-ended manner that [it] now exposes taxpayers to a bailout of the health-insurance industry if and when the law fails.”  At Rubio’s urging, a provision was attached to the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act (CRomnibus) at end of 2014, which mandated that the risk corridors must be budget neutral, and that CMS could not tap into outside taxpayer-funded accounts to cover a shortfall.

"With a bailout prevented, CMS was forced to announce on October 1, 2015 that the risk corridor shortfall was greater than anticipated, and that only $362 million out of the $2.87 billion requested by insurers could be provided.

"On December 3, 2015, during the Senate debate on the partial repeal of Obamacare, Sen. Patty Murray raised a point-of-order to the provision in the bill eliminating the risk corridors, stating that the program does “not have a sufficient budget impact.”  Only in Washington, D.C., would preventing a $2.5 billion bailout be considered small potatoes.

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said, “The fact that Obamacare continues to require taxpayer money to prop it up is evidence of its unsustainability.  If a bailout had been allowed at the end of 2014, taxpayers would have been exposed to a $2.5 billion transfer of money to insurance companies.  Sen. Murray’s efforts to defend pouring more taxpayer dollars into this money pit is shameful, particularly after she and her fellow Democrats created Obamacare in part to protect Americans from ‘ruthless’ insurance companies, but now they are rushing to protect the very same ‘evil’ industry.  Congress should be commended for defeating Sen. Murray’s efforts and explicitly restricting CMS from bailing out insurance companies using Obamacare’s risk corridors.”

Concerned about the cost of ObamaCare? If so, take a few minutes, and write to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

If you're not familiar with Citizens Against Government Waste, CAGW "is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government."

December 19, 2015

A Thought on Knowledge, Thoughts and Emotions

"The vast accumulations of knowledge—or at least of information—deposited by the nineteenth century have been responsible for an equally vast ignorance. When there is so much to be known, when there are so many fields of knowledge in which the same words are used with different meanings, when every one knows a little about a great many things, it becomes increasingly difficult for anyone to know whether he knows what he is talking about or not. And when we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts."

~ T.S. Eliot

Source: his essay, "The Perfect Critic," in the collection, "The Sacred Wood," available at Bartleby.com's Great Books Online. HT Wall Street Journal's Notable & Quotable, December 18, 2015, which noted the essay was written in 1920 for the literary journal Athenaeum.

December 18, 2015

A Thought on Renewable Energy Subsidies for Solar

"Fortunately for taxpayers, many (people) are beginning to see the light (pun intended), including solar company CEOs. Enphase Energy CEO Paul Nahi suggested in a Feb. 14, 2013, commentary in Forbes that, “For the good of our energy future, subsidies for all energy must eventually end.” In his Jan. 13, 2015 commentary in Clean Technica, Greenwood Energy CEO Camilo Patrignani called for letting the ITC expire at the end of 2018. European Union nations, which have consistently touted the benefits of renewable energy, particularly solar, have begun to recognize that government subsidies are too costly and adversely affect their economies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s staff referred to the subsidies as a “massive money pit,” before announcing plans to phase them out.

"Despite the difficulty of ending subsidies and credits that gain a constituency (and a lobby) inside the Beltway, Congress has shown some willingness to end supposed “temporary” taxpayer support like the wind production tax credit (although it was resurrected in the omnibus bill). Notwithstanding the latest deal being voted on today, the time has come for the solar industry to face market forces and stand on its own, but in order to achieve that objective, the tax credits must expire sooner rather than later. Hardworking taxpayers shouldn’t continue shelling out billions for potentially wasteful and fraudulent programs that have no clear benefit. Congress should let the sun set on solar socialism."

~ Tom Schatz, President, Citizens Against Government Waste

Source: his December 18, 2015 op-ed, "Setting the sun on a boondoggle," in The Washington Times. See the source for embedded links.

December 17, 2015

Some Thoughts on the Bill of Rights

First, apologies for being two days late in noting that December 15 was Bill of Rights Day. Mark M. Alexander, Executive Editor and Publisher of Patriots Post provides the context, writing on Tuesday (see original for embedded links):

"Today, Dec. 15, is the anniversary of the 1791 ratification of our Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution, and the Rule of Law it enshrines.

"The Bill of Rights was inspired by three remarkable documents: John Locke’s 1689 thesis, “Two Treatises of Government,” regarding the protection of “property” (in the Latin context, proprius, or one’s own “life, liberty and estate”); in part from the Virginia Declaration of Rights authored by George Mason in 1776 as part of that state’s Constitution; and, of course, in part from our Declaration of Independence authored by Thomas Jefferson.

"Read in context, the Bill of Rights is both an affirmation of innate “unalienable rights” of man, and a clear proscription upon any central government infringement of those rights. As oft trampled and abused as the Bill of Rights is by those who’ve sworn an oath “to Support and Defend” our Constitution, most notably “judicial supremacists,” or the “despotic branch” as Jefferson called the judiciary, Patriots must remain ever vigilant in order to sustain our rights."

The quote below is from chapter 11, "Post-Constitutional America" (pages 186-7) in Mark R. Levin's book, "Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America."

"The Framers believed they had done what they could, through the Constitution, to fend off tyranny by the few and the many.

Still, the Anti-Federalists were not convinced, and ratification of the Constitution in several states was in jeopardy. Madison and others tried to alleviate the objections. In Federalist 39, Madison argued that the federal government had only "certain enumerated" powers and the states retained "residuary and inviolable sovereignty" over all else." In Federalist 45, he asserted that the proposed federal powers were "few and limited" and the power in the states remained "numerous and indefinite." Nonetheless, Virginia's George Mason, among many others, insisted that more was needed to contain federal authority and safeguard the states' plenary power. In order to secure the Constitution's  ratification, the Federalists eventually agreed to introduce a set of amendments in the 1st Congress, which had been widely accepted in advance, further delineating and underscoring the limits of the federal government respecting its potential abuse against the individual and usurpation of the states. They became known as the Bill of Rights."

~ Mark R. Levin

See the book for the footnotes. HT Mark Levin Show.

December 16, 2015

County Auditor to Begin Work in January

After several years, the Arlington County Board finally voted last night to hire a County Auditor, according to a report today by the Arlington Sun Gazette.

Here is how the Sun Gazette begins its reporting:

"Arlington County Board members on Dec. 15 agreed to a contract with their incoming auditor.

"Jessica Tucker, who currently serves as deputy auditor to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, was hired after a lengthy search. She will become the fourth person – after acting County Manager Mark Schwartz, County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac and County Board Clerk Hope Halleck – who works directly for board members rather than under Schwartz.

"The General Assembly earlier this year gave the County Board authority to hire an auditor reporting directly to its members. Tucker is “exactly what we’re looking for,” said County Board member Jay Fisette, one of those who fought for creation of the position.

“This is the culmination of a long effort,” said board member John Vihstadt, who sought to have the auditor position created. “We had a great number of very qualified applicants.”

"The vote to hire Tucker was 4-1, with County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada, who did not support creation of the position in the first place, against. Tejada made a point of saying his vote was no reflection on Tucker, rather his view that the money could be better spent elsewhere."

The Sun Gazette added, "Tucker will work in collaboration with an audit committee that will include two County Board members, the county manager or his designee, and three members of the public."

In its April 3, 2012 report to Arlington County Civic Federation delegates almost four years ago, the Federation's Revenues & Expenditure (R&E) Committee included the following recommendation in its report on Arlington County's FY 2013 budget:

" . . . As part of our report on the FY12 budget last spring, R&E recommended “that the County establish and fund an office which will provide the community with a degree of assurance that its taxes and fees are being effectively and efficiently spent, with adequate safeguards to protect against waste, fraud and abuse.”

"We again make this recommendation, and provide half-year funding for what we envision as a two or three person IG office."

The ARLnow.com online news website also reported on the hiring of Jessica Tucker here.

Kudos are in order for several Arlington County leaders. The first is Wayne Kubicki, who chaired the Civic Federation's R&E Committee that made that recommendation in 2012; Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt for championing a robust internal audit function in campaigning for the County Board; Delegate Patrick Hope for sponsoring legislation that provided Arlington County the authority to hire a county auditor; and, members of the Civic Federation's R&E Committee for their continuing support of a dynamic internal audit function.

December 15, 2015

Does the Pentagon Need to be Audited?

In a post yesterday at Congress Blog, The Hill's forum for lawmakers and policy professionals, Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union explains the need to audit the Pentagon. Here's his argument:

"Based on the latest revelations from federal investigators, the Pentagon all too often seems to be spending cash like a carefree heir to a family fortune -- except in this case, taxpayers are the ones footing the bill.

"Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko has called out Department of Defense (DoD) leadership for renting “specially furnished” private villas in Afghanistan and hiring contractors to provide round-the-clock “security” as well as 3-star “food services” to the tune of $150 million.

"This comes on the heels of another report, also prompted by Sopko, that the Pentagon spent $43 million on a gas station there that should have cost approximately $500,000. That’s the difference between budgeting for one new car and instead purchasing more than 100.

"Even more incredible is that the Pentagon offered bogus explanations about how the money was spent on private villas and the gas station.

"When asked why they required private villas with flat-screen TVs and personal catering instead of living on secured military bases that provide housing and food, officials claimed “the goal was to show private companies that they could set up operations in Afghanistan themselves without needing military support.” They failed to address the fact that the officials did have armed support 24/7 while at the villas and paid contractors $57 million to provide it. To quote Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that “sounds like U.S. Grade A baloney.”

"And when asked about the gas station, the Pentagon claimed that it simply could not provide any information at all -- not the cost, planning, or implementation -- about any aspect of the project.

Despite these, and other far more outrageous examples of waste and abuse, the Pentagon insists it needs more money from taxpayers’ pockets. A number in Congress and running for president want to fulfill their request. So what do you do with someone who spends away the inheritance and keeps asking others for more? Well for starters, you certainly don’t give them more money, no questions asked; you go back and find out how all that money was actually spent.

"In other words, you do an audit.

Read the remainder of Sepp's op-ed here.

Kudos to The Hill, "the newspaper for and about Congress, for providing policy makers the opportunity to share their views on important issues. The Hill's homepage is here.

The National Taxpayers Union homepage is here.

December 14, 2015

Virginia's Business Tax Climate Headed in the Wrong Direction

Two weeks ago, Virginia Gov. McAuliffe proposed lowering the corporate tax rate. According to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star on Friday, December 4, 2015:

"Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday that he wants to lower the state tax rate for corporations, saying the move is necessary to make Virginia more competitive with other states.

"At a Virginia legislative preview sponsored by The Associated Press, McAuliffe said he wants to lower the current corporate tax rate from 6 percent to 5.75 percent, while increasing tax credits for corporate research and development spending and investing in startups.

"Luring companies to relocate or expand in Virginia has been a top priority for the Democratic governor, who noted that North Carolina’s corporate tax rate is slated to be 4 percent starting next year.

“I am constantly in meetings negotiating getting businesses to come to Virginia,” McAuliffe said. “The first question we always get is, ’What is your tax rate?’”

"Virginia’s corporate tax rate is lower than that of most of its direct neighbors, but is higher than many other Southern states the state often competes with for deals."

So let's delve deeper into Virginia's business tax climate. On November 17, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation published their 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index, the work of Jared Walczak, Scott Drenkard, and Joseph Henchman. For Virginians, the two major takeaways from the 2016 report are:

  • For 2016, Virginia ranked 30th overall. In the six components ranked, Virginia was 6th in corporate income tax; 39th in individual income tax; 6th in sales tax; 38th in unemployment insurance tax; and 29th in the property tax.
  • Unfortunately, Virginia's overall rank has been headed in the wrong direction. It dropped two places from 2015 to 2015, going from #28 in 2015 to #30 in 2016, but it had previously dropped from #25 in 2013 and to #26 in 2014.

The report contains 85 pages and includes 22 tables. The following map is from the report.

Business people and entrepreneurs will find a wealth of information in the report. Here's the link to the Adobe (.pdf) version.

The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star made no mention of Virginia's ranking in the Tax Foundation's 2016 business tax index. However, Governor McAuliffe deserves credit for proposing to lower the corporate income tax. However, if you look further at the map above, you'll see that in the South, only Florida and Texas ranked in the top 10 states overall. Consequently, we urge the governor and members of the General Assembly to look further at improving the individual income tax, the unemployment insurance tax, and/or the property tax before settling on lowering the corporate tax in order to improve Virginia's overall business tax climate.

In today's Washington Business Journal, Andy Medici reports that Gov. McAuliffe is most concerned about the competition from North Carolina where the state's corporate income tax has been lowered from 6.9% in 2013 to 5% in 2015. It will be lowered further -- to 4% in 2016. Medici also quotes the Tax Foundation's Scott Drenkard, who notes Virginia has traditionally competed with Maryland and the District, but the "tax changes in North Carolina is making it the state to emulate."

Virginia readers of Growls are encouraged to contact their Delegate and Senator in the General Assembly to learn what their legislators have done to improve the Commonwealth's business tax climate. These are the legislators representing Arlington County in the Virginia General Assembly: Senators (Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, or Janet Howell) and Delegates (Rip Sullivan, Patrick Hope, Alfonso Lopez, or Mark H. Levine, beginning 1/1/16). Contact information for members of the General Assembly can be found here  -- use one of the "quick links" to locate the senator and delegate who represent you.

And tell them ACTA sent you!

December 13, 2015

Arlington County: Living on Borrowed Money

A recent post at Bacon's Rebellion this past week noted that Virginia's debt service doubled from 2005 to 2014, going from just under $400 million to just over $800 million.

As a result of Jim Bacon's observation about Virginia's debt service, I looked at the growth of Arlington County's debt service and how it changed from 2001 through 2015, using the same spreadsheet of general government expenditures by function and population (Tables D-1 and K in the county's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) that I used to growl about the county's year-end (aka one-time) spending on December 9, 2015.

With that explanation, let's start off by listing some facts:

  • In 2001, Arlington County's debt service was $$46.0 million. With a county population of 189,983, per capita spending for debt service was $242.21.
  • In 2015, Arlington County's debt service was $103.7 million. With a county population of 216,700, per capita spending for debt service was $478.32.
  • Adjusted for inflation and population, the 2001 debt service per capita becomes almost $70.5 million.
  • Consequently, because of the profligacy of Arlington County Boards since 2001, county taxpayers are spending almost $33.2 million because Board members are unable to limit spending to inflation and population increases.

When the county politicians and bureaucrats are pushing the biennial Capital Improvement Plans, they make sure voters know that debt service cannot exceed 10% of general government expenditures although they are more general, saying the ratio should not exceed 10% within the ten-year projection. They also say the growth in debt service should be sustainable and consistent with the growth in revenues.

So how has Arlington County's debt service met the criteria in the preceding paragraph? In 2001, debt service amounted to 7.7% of total expenditures. By 2015, debt service as a percentage of total expenditures rose to 8.5%. In addition, while total expenditures increased from 2001 to 2015 by an annual average of 5.1%, debt service increased faster, by an annual average of 5.8%.

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers are encouraged to provide the Arlington County Board their thoughts on the Board's profligate ways, and especially debt service. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

December 12, 2015

A Thought About Building and Managing a New System

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new ones.”

~ Niccolò€ Machiavelli

Source: quote in the November 21, 2015 weekly newsletter, The Week That Was, The  Science and Environment Policy Project.

December 11, 2015

What the Paris and Other Climate Summits Really Want

"In the days leading up to the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, hardly a living person could avoid hearing the desperate talk about the Paris summit being our last chance to save the world from global warming . It was all a pretense, however, because what the global warming alarmist community says it wants isn't what it truly hungers for.

"The U.N.'s many climate meetings and its interest in climate through the years have nothing to do with warming, climate, weather or the environment.

"The goal has always been to wreck capitalism , punish prosperous economies that became rich through free markets, reward poorer nations that are impoverished by policies that starve markets, and reshape the world in the image of left-wing thought.

"Don't believe it? It's right there in the U.N.'s own documents."

~ Editorial, Investor's Business Daily

Source: Editorial, IBD, posted December 11, 2015. Embedded links in the original.

December 10, 2015

Arlington County: America's 6th Wealthiest County

According to Wikipedia, there are 3,007 counties and 136 "county-equivalents" in the United Sates, or a total of 3,143 counties.

So it was surprising to see a news item today by the CNS News' Terry Jeffrey that carried the headline:

"Nation’s Wealthiest ‘County:’ 7 Miles from D.C.; 32.8% Work for Government; $125,635 Median Income"

According to Jeffrey:

"The “county” that the Census Bureau reported yesterday had the highest median household income in the nation in 2014 is disproportionately populated by people who work for the government.

"The City of Falls Church, Va.--which the Census Bureau treats as a “county” because it is an independent city that is not a part of any county—had a median household income of $125,635 in 2014.

"That put it first on the Census Bureau’s list of the 30 counties in the nation with the highest median incomes.

"Falls Church City beat out nearby Loudoun County, Va. ($122,641), which ranked Number 2; and bordering Fairfax County, Va., ($110,507), which ranked Number 3.

"Unlike Loudoun, which had a population of 363,050 in 2014, according to Census Bureau’s estimate; or Fairfax, which had a population of 1,137,538; Falls Church City had a population of only 13,601.

"The center of Falls Church City—at Broad and Washington streets--is only about 7 miles by road from the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River into Washington, D.C.

"In the five-year period from 2010-2014, according to the Census Bureau’s estimate, there were 7,290 Falls Church City residents 16 and older who were employed."

In a version of the story published by CNS News yesterday, Arlington County was ranked sixth wealthiest, based on 2014 median household income. And, as noted in the following chart, eight of the 20 wealthiest counties are suburbs of Washington, D.C.:

A friend recently observed that 'income is just one factor, that if cost-of-living was included, then Arlington might be lower than sixth." Actually, the answer would likely be: not much, if at all.

To reach that conclusion, I turn to one of Virginia's top policy blogs, Bacon's Rebellion. Earlier this week, he blogged about Virginia's economy, citing data from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce's 2015 State of the Commonwealth Report, including a table of Virginia's cities and towns with a cost-of-living index. Although his table doesn't include the City of Falls Church, Loudoun and Fairfax counties are at the top, and Arlington County doesn't trail Fairfax County by that much.

The unfortunate thing about Arlington County being near the top of the list of wealthiest counties is that some Arlington County Board members think they have to spend as much as they can on as many vanity projects as staff can create out of whole cloth.

December 09, 2015

Better Government Through Better Budgeting

One of the front-page stories in the December 3-9 Arlington Sun Gazette discussed how the Arlington County Board "sparred" over how the Board should allocate the excess funds in closing-out the 2015 fiscal year. As the Sun Gazette's Scott McCaffrey wrote:

"At that meeting, Vihstadt proposed holding off on allocating some of the leftover funds, keeping them in a pot of money that could be used after the fiscal 2017 budget process worked itself out next spring.

“Let’s take a step back,” Vihstadt said. “I’d really rather have that flexibility and have the wisdom and conversation with our two new board members.”

"The $20 million proposed for allocation into the fiscal 2017 budget includes funds for economic development, affordable housing, land acquisition, capital maintenance and public safety.

"Garvey, who through much of the past year has been allied with Vihstadt on the dais, said she wasn’t against those priorities, but said the community should have a chance to weigh them against others.

"It would be “much better governance to actually make sure all your spending goes through the budget process,” Garvey said, “so that all the different groups that want may come . . . and know where we are.”
Allocating the funds near the end of the calendar year – which some critics liken to Christmas presents for special-interest groups – “feels a little ad-hoc to me,” Garvey said.

“When we go through the budget process, it’s very measured and we look at all the different needs and balance them all out.”

In response, yours truly submitted the following letter to the Sun Gazette editor:

Editor
ATTN: Letters to the Editor
Arlington Sun Gazette

Dear Editor:

    Re: how the Arlington County Board allocates excess cash, aka end-of-fiscal-year cash (front page, December 3-9, 2015).

    Two items in the front-page story should be of special interest to Arlington County taxpayers. First, you point out that new Board members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol “have promised to take a hard look at spending.” Hopefully, they will. Such a look is a long-time coming. The second item of interest is current Board member Libby Garvey’s observation that all spending should go through the budget process.

    Those two items are enlightened in comparison to the views expressed by outgoing Board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, not to mention the view of Jay Fisette who thinks it is rational to spend more than the budget.

    In a recent exercise in number-crunching, I prepared a spreadsheet of county spending from 2001 to 2015 using data from Table D-1 in the county’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR). The table provides general governmental expenditures by function, and covers almost all county spending.

    The results of this exercise presents a picture of profligacy. Although inflation over those 15 years averaged less than 2.5% annually, annual total spending increased an average of 5.1%. The picture was even worse for several of the functions. For example, annual contributions to WMATA averaged 8.3%. Other functions, which experienced higher than normal average increases included public works/environmental services (7.8%), public safety (5.6%), and debt service (5.8%).

    Even spending increases by the “highest-cost-per-student-in-the-region” Arlington Public Schools averaged “only” 4.9%.

    Although the change in total expenditures averaged 5.1%, the change for three of those years was above 9%; one year was above 8%; and five were above 5%. Five were between 2.4% and 4.5%. Only in three of the years was the budget equal to, or below, the inflation rate.

    The Arlington County Board likes to spout the mantra of sustainability. Apparently that applies to the environment, but not to the budget. I would suggest the Board’s habit of spending those “one-time” dollars is part of the problem rather than a rational approach to budgeting.

    Finally, my number-crunching included controlling for inflation and population growth, the same exercise that has been performed by Virginia’s Joint Legislative and Audit Review Commission (JLARC) since the early 1990’s. In 2001, Arlington County expenditures were $3,131 per capita. Using the Department of Labor’s CPI Inflation Calculator, that amount would be almost $4,205 in 2015, which if multiplied by the county’s 2015 population (from Table K in the CAFR) would mean that total expenditures in 2015 would be $911.2 million rather than the actual FY 2015 total expenditures of $1,216.1 million.

    Hopefully, Mr. Fisette will rethink his views about the current budget process, and realize that spending more than you budget is indeed irrational, and join the rational approach proposed by his fellow Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt.

Regards,
Tim Wise

In his weekly The Right Note column at ARLnow.com, Mark Kelly seemed to agree, writing:

"Kudos to Vihstadt for raising the issue as part of the closeout process and drawing more public attention to it. As Garvey noted, it would be “much better governance to make sure your spending goes through the budget process.”

"Outgoing members Tejada and Hynes were not amused. Hynes claimed the public supported the Board’s plans for the year-end spending, despite having virtually no public input on the specifics of the just-released plan. Tejada called the Vihstadt proposal to pump the brakes on the spending measure “unreasonable and unneeded.”

"If your goal is to spend tens of millions of dollars in a way that does not catch the attention of the public, then you agree with Tejada. If you never want to give taxpayers a break, then the 3-2 vote to forge ahead without additional public scrutiny makes a whole lot of sense.

"The $22 million in year-end surplus revenue is just the tip of the iceberg in closeout spending and the need to shed more light on it. Arlington Public Schools ended up spending $25.6 million less than they budgeted for the previous fiscal year."

In her reporting for the Washington Post, Patricia Sullivan reported, on November 20, the "sparring" this way:

"The effort did not sit well with the other board members.

“Sure, there will be two new board members coming up in January, but now you are dealing with us,” said J. Walter Tejada (D), who will be leaving the board after he chose not to run for reelection this fall. “This proposal seems to me unreasonable and unneeded.”

"Mary Hynes, the other board member who is stepping down in January, turned red in the face as she objected to the proposal not to spend fiscal year 2015’s unused money on priorities such as economic development, land acquisition for schools, maintenance for existing infrastructure, housing grants and loans, and police staffing and fire training.

“We have spent hours and hours and hours this year talking about economic development. . . . Goodness gracious, there’s nothing random about this,” she said. “It’s all supported by plans; it’s all supported by what our community has told us.”

"Board member Jay Fisette (D) called the existing procedure “a rational process meant to reflect the overall philosophy of the board.”

Finally, at the relatively far left Blue Virginia, on November 21, Lowell talked about the "budget fireworks," including the following observation:

"That proposal by two Arlington County Board members -- Republican John Vihstadt and his close ally, Democrat Libby Garvey -- was (rightfully) met with exasperation, incredulity, scorn and even anger (listen as Mary Hynes gets angrier and angrier as she speaks) by the other three Board members (Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, the latter two of whom are leaving the Board in January 2016) . . . ."

Lowell includes a 10-minute video clip from the County Board meeting for your viewing enjoyment, as well as a selected transcript.

Growls readers who are Arlington County taxpayers are encouraged to provide the Arlington County Board their thoughts on how any excess budget funds should be used. Just click-on the link below:

  • Call the County Board office at (703) 228-3130

And tell them ACTA sent you.

p.s.: I will link to the letter when it is published online.

UPDATE (1/2/16): The above letter to the editor was published in the December 10-16, 2015 Arlington Sun Gazette.

December 08, 2015

A Thought on Limited Government

"The number of Madisonians in the Senate will always be in single digits, because only a handful of states have electorates that would conceivably elect someone committed to genuine limited government. Only the House of Representatives will continue to have an active minority of Madisonians elected by extremely conservative congressional districts, but even in the House they will be a minority of the Republican caucus."

~ Charles Murray

Source: page 114, We the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission.

December 07, 2015

A Thought About Progressive Taxation

"Progressives are increasingly preoccupied with income inequality, and their current hero, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), favors increasing the tax system’s progressivity. So, in this 103rd year of the income tax, it is timely to note that there still is no intellectually sturdy case for progressive taxation.

"Arguments for it are invariably arguments for increased equality of social outcomes. Because individuals have different vocational desires and different aptitudes for adding value to the economy, inequality is inevitable. Because individuals have different social sensibilities, opinions will differ about what degrees of inequality are intolerably unlovely (more about this aesthetic metric in a moment). But inequality, even when unlovely to some, is unjust only when it arises from unjust social arrangements. So, the degree to which inequality is morally troubling depends on the degree to which the process that allocates wealth does so according to political influence and rent-seeking rather than merit and self-reliance."

~ George Will

Source: His "The nonexistent case for progressive taxation" column, posted 12/4/15 at the Washington Post website.

December 06, 2015

ObamaCare and the Direction of the Cost Curve

In his September 24, 2013 column for National Review, Avik Roy provides this historical context about the impact of ObamaCare on national healthcare spending:

"Back in 2008, three eminent Harvard economists who were advising the Obama campaign—David Cutler, David Blumenthal, and Jeffrey Liebman—wrote a memo claiming that Senator Obama’s health-care plan could reduce national health spending by $200 billion a year. As Kevin Sack recounted in the New York Times, the authors of that memo then took that figure, “divided [it] by the country’s population, multiplied for a family of four, and rounded down slightly to a number that was easy to grasp: $2,500.”

"Mr. Obama then took that number on the campaign trail, insisting that his health plan would “lower your premiums by up to $2,500 per family per year.” This YouTube video features just a few of the times that he made this promise." (use above link to watch the video)

Roy then discussed the national health expenditures projections for 2012-2022 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

On Thursday, December 3, CMS released its latest annual report of national health expenditures (NHE). For the policy wonks, and those wishing to exercise their number-crunching skills, there are 11 separate downloads available, including a ZIPfile of NHE tables.

The following day, Investor's Business Daily's editorial staff took on the CMS report, saying that "ObamaCare was supposed to bend the cost curve down. But the latest national health spending data show that it's doing the opposite. Not only is spending way up, so are overhead costs." Following is a portion of editorial:

"President Obama has repeatedly credited the dramatic slowdown in health spending as proof positive that ObamaCare was "bending the cost curve" down in health care. He conveniently ignored the fact that the slowdown started long before he took office.

"And now that the law has actually taken effect, spending has shot up.

"That's what the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows in its annual report on national health spending. For more than a decade, annual spending growth was on a steady downward trend, going from 9.6% in 2002 to just 2.9% in 2013.

"Then came ObamaCare. In 2014, national spending climbed 5.3%. A separate CMS report says that it will stay at this elevated level for decades.

"More troubling is where these spending hikes are coming from.

"The administration wants to blame the high prices for drugs — such as Sovaldi, which can cure hepatitis C — for the increase. It's true that drug spending shot up 12% last year. But even with that increase, spending on drugs still accounted for 9.8% of the nation's total health bill. That's a smaller share than throughout the 2000s and the same as it was in 1960.

"What's really driving health spending has been the huge increase in Medicaid — which climbed 18% — and other government programs. The government's share of national health spending went from 41% before Obama took office to 45% today, and climbing.

"The data also show that while ObamaCare was supposed to make the health care system more efficient, it's done the opposite. In fact, per-capita overhead costs climbed 11% last year."

For some of the highlights from the national health expenditures report, which shows various "views" of the data, look at the NHE Fact Sheet. Examples of "views," include: historical; projected NHE 2014-2024; NHE by age group and gender; and NHE by state of residence.

For additional reporting on the CMS annual report, see:

Concerned about spending for healthcare, and how it affects the national economy? If so, take a couple of minutes, and write to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

December 05, 2015

Amounting to the "Proverbial Drop in the Bucket"

At CNS News yesterday, Barbara Hollingsworth reports on an interview with the Cato Institute's 'Chip' Knappenberger, who testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on the impact that limiting CO2 emissions will have on future climate change.

You can read Knappenberger's testimony here at the Cato Institute website. We recently growled about the so-called COP 21 climate conference in Paris here, and on October 11, 2015, we growled about how the Sierra Club got schooled on global warming science.

Here's approximately the first half of the interview with Knappenberger:

"The projected increase in global temperature averted by President Obama’s pledge to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 28 percent over the next decade comes out to an “environmentally inconsequential” 0.04 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, the assistant director of the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology last month.

“I basically told the committee that U.S. actions aimed at mitigating future climate change by limiting CO2 emissions from U.S. power plants and the rest of the economy would have a very small impact on future climate change,"  Paul “Chip” Knappenberger told CNSNews.com.

"So small, in fact, that it probably wouldn’t be scientifically detectable."

"Knappenberger said a widely available climate modeling tool developed under funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows that compared to worldwide CO2 emissions, any cutbacks by the U.S. would amount to “a proverbial drop in the bucket, they’re so small,” he said.

"Knappenberger warned Congress that President Obama’s stated goal to decrease CO2 emissions 80 percent by 2050 will require a “complete transformation of the energy system beyond what we can even imagine.”

“Basically there’s no way to get there right now with current technology.”

"But even if CO2 emissions were scaled back to Civil War-era levels, it would only avert four one-hundredths of a degree of global warming by the end of the century, he told CNSNews.com."

At the end of Hollingworth's interview with Knappenberger, she includes this quotation:

“So basically whatever comes out of Paris will have no impact on the future course of climate.”

For so little, the American economy, and the American people, will pay a terrible price.

Concerned about the price the American economy will pay as a result of President Obama's efforts to limit CO2 emissions? If so, take a couple of minutes, and growl to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

December 04, 2015

A Thought on 'Just' (aka 'Fair'?) Taxes

"People want just taxes more than they want lower taxes. They want to know that every man is paying his proportionate share according to his wealth." (italics in the original)

~ Will Rogers

Source: page 133, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

December 03, 2015

A Summary of 2013 Federal Income Tax Data, 2015 Update

Two weeks ago, the Tax Foundation's  Scott Greenberg provided a statistical summery of 2013 federal income tax data (Fiscal Fact No. 491, Summary of the Latest Federal Income Tax Data, 2015 Update). The .pdf version prints-out at 12 pages. Here's the introduction:

"The Internal Revenue Service has recently released new data on individual income taxes for calendar year 2013, showing the number of taxpayers, adjusted gross income, and income tax shares by income percentiles.

"The data demonstrates that the U.S. individual income tax continues to be progressive, borne mainly by the highest income earners." (footnote deleted)

And here are the key findings from the report:

  • In 2013, 138.3 million taxpayers reported earning $9.03 trillion in adjusted gross income and paid $1.23 trillion in income taxes.
  • Every income group besides the top 1 percent of taxpayers reported higher income in 2013 than the previous year. All income groups paid higher taxes in 2013 than the previous year.
  • The share of income earned by the top 1 percent of taxpayers fell to 19.0 percent in 2013. Their share of federal income taxes fell slightly to 37.8 percent.
  • In 2012, the top 50 percent of all taxpayers (69.2 million filers) paid 97.2 percent of all income taxes while the bottom 50 percent paid the remaining 2.8 percent.
  • The top 1 percent (1.3 million filers) paid a greater share of income taxes (37.8 percent) than the bottom 90 percent (124.5 million filers) combined (30.2 percent).
  • The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid a higher effective income tax rate than any other group, at 27.1 percent, which is over 8 times higher than taxpayers in the bottom 50 percent (3.3 percent)

Greenberg provides the following chart showing Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and Income Taxes Paid by Income Group, which shows that half of taxpayers paid 97.2% of all federal income taxes. Also note that although the top 1% earned 19% of all AGI, they paid almost 38% of all income taxes.


Which raises the question of just what it means to pay your 'fair share' of taxes.

As one football television announcer liked to say, "Let's go to the video tape." In this case we literally mean going to the video tape.

The Washington Examiner's Joel Gehrke reported on January 2, 2013. shortly after the President's reelection, about a video cut by President Obama. Here's how Gehrke begins:

"President Obama cut a video, distributed by his reelection, to reiterate his belief that the wealthiest Americans still aren’t paying their “fair share” of taxes and to outline a second-term agenda ranging from environmental policy to gun control.

"Obama started by celebrating the tax increases — “making our tax code more progressive than it’s been in decades,” he said — that will take place because of the fiscal cliff deal.

“Obviously, there is still more to do when it comes to reducing our debt,” Obama said in the video. “And I’m willing to do more, as long as we do it in a balanced way that doesn’t put all the burden on seniors or students or middle class families, but also asks the wealthiest Americans to contribute and pay their fair share.”

"Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, cut the video for his campaign list. “President Obama recorded a video to update supporters like you on what’s in the agreement and what it means for you,” Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email today. “As we address our ongoing fiscal challenges, the President will do exactly what he said he would on the campaign trail — working for the middle class and all those fighting to get into it, and building an economy from the middle out, not the top down.”

In a column posted at Townhall.com on April 17, 2015, Don Lambro writes in a column entitled, "Obama's Big Lie That Wealthy Americans Aren't Paying Their "Fair Share" In Taxes Is Exposed:"

"It's one of the great lies by the big spenders here, but the truth is that Americans at the top of the income scale pay most of the taxes.

"Yet the myth persists, perpetrated by the Washington news media, liberal special interests and others. despite endless studies that prove otherwise.

"A recent Pew Research Center survey found that some six-in-ten Americans said "they were bothered a lot by the feeling that 'some wealthy people' and 'some corporations' don't pay their fair share."

"Notably, 40 percent of those polled "thought they paid more than their fair share," Pew said.

"But Pew included some tax data in its survey report that the IRS should send to every American taxpayer.

"Based on a sample of tax returns filed between January and September 2013, the IRS found that people earning $250,000 and up accounted for 48.9 percent of all individual income taxes paid.

"Those earning between $200,000 to $249,999 paid 6.1 percent of all taxes paid. And people who made between $100,000 to nearly $200,000 a year accounted for 22.7 percent of income taxes paid, the IRS found."

Finally, in a Forbes magazine article in April 2013, Tony Nitti explains how "Beginning early in his re-election campaign, President Obama began voicing his belief that our broken tax system and mounting deficit could be fixed — in part, at least – by asking the nation’s wealthiest taxpayer’s to pay their “fair share” of federal income tax . . . begging the natural question: How much tax must a wealthy individual pay before they’ve paid their “fair share?”Nitti goes on to say, "Well, now that the President has issued his 2014 budget proposal, with a little basic math, we can get our answer. And it ain’t pretty."

According to Nitti, those making from $200,000 to $500,000 will see tax increases of $5,767; those making between $500,000 and $1 million will see tax increases of $14,248, and those earning over $1 million will see a tax increase of $195,961. Not pretty, indeed!

Sure would be nice if President Obama and his liberal colleagues would look at the facts before talking about Americans not paying their 'fair share' of taxes and making policy pronouncements. As John Stossel said in a Forbes magazine article in 2012, "If the IRS grabbed 100 percent of income over $1 million, the take would be just $616 billion . . . Our national debt would continue to explode."

Fed up with politicians blabbering about taxpayers paying their 'fair share'? Think it's time for tax reform and a flat tax or the FairTax? If so, take a couple of minutes, and growl to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

December 02, 2015

Federal Housing and Urban Development: Impossible to Audit

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) defines a "disclaimer of opinion" as "A disclaimer of opinion states that the auditor does not express an opinion on the financial statements."

The Daily Caller's Eathan Barton reported yesterday on an audit of the financial statements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and writes:

"A government watchdog says it can’t audit billions in Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spending because the agency’s financial books are kept so poorly.

"HUD’s financial statements and systems are missing records, inaccurate and sometimes even violated federal laws, according to a HUD inspector general report released Monday. Included among the programs with useless financial accounting records is nearly $20 billion at the Government National Mortgage Association.

“This audit report contains nine material weaknesses, eight significant deficiencies in internal controls and six instances of noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations,” the report says. “These weaknesses were due to an inability to establish a compliant control environment, implement adequate financial accounting systems, retain key financial management staff and identify appropriate accounting principles.”

Barton also wrote:

“This audit report contains nine material weaknesses, eight significant deficiencies in internal controls and six instances of noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations,” the report says. “These weaknesses were due to an inability to establish a compliant control environment, implement adequate financial accounting systems, retain key financial management staff and identify appropriate accounting principles.”

"HUD’s financial office “recognized there were some weaknesses within its operations,” but “did not have adequate time to sufficiently” confirm the IG’s findings, the report says."

You can access the report (Number 2016-FO-0004, Fiscal Years 2015 and 2014 (Restated) U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Consolidated Financial Statements Audit. Audio files available) at the HUD website.

Fed up with this fiscal incompetence? If so, take a couple of minutes to write to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.

December 01, 2015

Taxes and Climate Change

The latest global warming (aka climate change) conference, formally the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) kicked off yesterday in Paris. The Washington Post's Steven Mufson provides the background and some of the issues in this report over  the weekend. President Obama attended the first two days of the summit. You can follow his speeches, etc. at the White House Blog.

At the CNS News website, Susan Jones reports on President Obama's comments at a press conference in Paris today. According to her report -- entitled, "Obama Says a New Tax Is 'The Most Elegant Way' to Stop Climate Change" -- President Obama talked about using taxes to limit carbon emissions:

"At news conference in Paris on Tuesday, President Obama said "the most elegant way" to reduce carbon emissions is "to put a price on it."

"He was responding to a reporter who asked Obama, "I wonder if you see any political path back home toward putting a price on carbon?"

"I have long believed that the most elegant way to drive innovation and to reduce carbon emissions is to put a price on it. This is a classic market failure," Obama replied.

"If you open up an Econ 101 textbook, it will say the market's very good about determining prices and allocating capital towards its most productive use, except there's certain externalities, there's certain things that the market just doesn't count, it doesn't price, at least not on its own. Clean air is an example; clean water -- or the converse, dirty water, dirty air."

At this writing, there are 21 reader comments. Perhaps the best belongs to SteadfastCry, who wrote, "Yes, the smartest way to steal from someone is to pretend it's all legal like." You can read the rest of Jones' report here:

Fed up with higher taxes and Congress' failure to deal with jobs and the economy? If so, take a couple of minutes to write to one of your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at Thomas (use left-hand column). Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can 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

Remember to ask for a written response, and tell them ACTA sent you.