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May 31, 2017

Getting Twice the Services for Your Federal Tax Dollars?

At CNS News today, Editor-in-Chief Terry Jeffrey reports, "Per Capita Taxes Have More Than Doubled Since JFK."

According to Jeffrey:

"Real federal taxes per capita have more than doubled since John F. Kennedy served as president — and argued for lower taxes.

"In 1961, the fiscal year Kennedy was elected, the federal government collected about $94.388 billion in taxes, according to the Office of Management and Budget. The population that year was about 183,691,481, according to the Census Bureau. That meant federal tax revenues equaled about $514 per capita — or $4,121 in 2016 dollars.

"By 1965, the fiscal year Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater, the federal government collected about $116.817 billion in taxes from a population of about 194,302,963. That year federal taxes equaled about $601 per capita — or $4,578 in 2016 dollars.

"In fiscal 2016, according to OMB, the federal government collected about $3.268 trillion in taxes. That equaled about $10,114 for each of the 323,127,513 people in the country.

"Per capita federal taxation in fiscal 2016 was 121 percent more than it was in 1965 and 145 percent more than it was in 1961.

"In 1961, when Kennedy took office, federal taxes consumed 17.2 percent of gross domestic product, according to OMB. By 1965, they were down to 16.4 percent.

"In 2012, then President Barack Obama was seeking re-election, and federal taxes consumed 15.3 percent of GDP. But by 2016, they had climbed to 17.8 percent. This year, according to OMB, they will hit 18.1 percent."

He then quotes President John F. Kennedy, America's 35th president and who was born 100 years ago this week, to explain how tax cuts can lead to economic growth:

"Fifty-five years ago, when taxes were less than half what they are now per capita and consumed a smaller share of the economy, President Kennedy, a Democrat, believed Americans deserved a better deal.

"In 1961, the economy grew at 2.6 percent — the same as it did in 2016. But Kennedy did not think that was good enough. He wanted more growth. He believed lower taxes was the path to it.

"The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system," Kennedy said in a Dec. 14, 1962 speech to the Economic Club of New York.

"I am not talking about a 'quickie' or a temporary tax cut, which would be more appropriate if a recession were imminent," Kennedy said. "Nor am I talking about giving the economy a mere shot in the arm, to ease some temporary complaint."

"The then-current tax system, he said, "siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power" and "reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment and risk taking."

Jeffrey's commentary is worth reading in its entirety since it is chock-full of useful tax information.

He closes by noting, "America has too much government and too much taxation. We need to cut them both."

So, if your per capita taxes are double today to what they were 55 years-ago, are you getting twice the services that taxpayers did back then? Do you know your Senators and Representative’s views on lower taxes, tax reform, and economic growth? Since it is likely that tax reform will be taken up by Congress this year, Growls readers concerned about America's burdensome taxes are urged to make their views about taxes known to their members of Congress as soon as possible. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

Or just click-on and write to President Trump at the White House!

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

May 30, 2017

The Harm Done by Hikes in the Minimum Wage

At The Federalist earlier this month, Erielle Davidson reports on a Harvard Business School study that explains how researchers discovered that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of any given restaurant folding."

According to Davidson:

"Harvard Business School recently released a working paper titled “Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit,” discussing the effects of minimum wage policies on companies’ survival. For those with any shred of economic understanding, the results were predictably dismal.

"The paper focused specifically upon the restaurant industry in San Francisco, using data from the review platform Yelp to track the activity and performance of individual restaurants. Researchers Dara Lee Luca and Michael Luca discovered that a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of any given restaurant exiting the industry entirely. In economic terms, minimum wage hikes quicken a restaurant’s “shutdown” point.

"Luca and Luca found this effect to be more pronounced among the restaurants with lower ratings while essentially nonexistent among five-star restaurants. A $1 increase in the minimum wage increased the likelihood of a 3.5-star exiting by roughly 14 percent, while having zero effects on the restaurants with five-star ratings. In other words, minimum wage hikes disproportionately affect the restaurants that are already struggling in popularity."

Why is this a relevant issue? She explains, "In an era where liberal-minded folks see increasing the minimum wage as a key way to equalize economic outcomes, studies such as this undercut the ignorant economics those on the Left espouse. Basic economics tell us that increasing the minimum wage will hurt not only firms by increasing their operational costs but also the very workers they presumably fire in the process to keep those operational costs down."

In the conclusion, Davidson explains just who is affected by minimum wage hikes, writing:

"Economists have found minimum wage hikes to be unhelpful in reducing inequality and followed by more low-income workers being laid off, a great number of whom are people of color. The first of a series of scheduled minimum wage hikes in Seattle in 2015 resulted in a 1 percent drop in the employment rate of Seattle’s low-wage workers and preceded the worst job decline for the city since the 2008-09 recession.

"According to a 2014 report, only 17 percent of Seattle workers previously making under $15 per hour before the hike were white. The rest were Asian (20 percent), Black (28 percent), and Hispanic (22 percent). Undoubtedly, these folks were disproportionately hurt by the reduction in employment that followed the hikes.

"While “racial and economic justice” through forced minimum wage hikes sounds appealing, it just doesn’t work the way its supporters suppose. In fact, quite the opposite. Slapping a $15 minimum wage requirement on a large corporation might “feel good” to angry workers, but those very workers are ultimately the ones who will pay the price.

"No one ever said class warfare rhetoric made economic sense. San Francisco will soon relearn that this summer when it raises its minimum wage again."

Now would someone just explain this to the politicians who are looking to do more "good things?"

May 29, 2017

A Thought on Memorial Day

"Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives."

~ John Adams

Source:  Epigraph of a Memorial Day 2017 article at The Patriot Post.

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John Adams (1735-1826), "a leader of the American Revolution, and served as the second U.S. president from 1797 to 1801." (History.com)

The Patriot Post article includes embedded links to a tribute to fallen American Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen." They also recommend reading a "tribute to Medal of Honor recipient Col. Leo K. Thorsness, who died earlier this month."

May 28, 2017

U.S. Forest Service Owns a "National Junkyard" of Buildings

At the Washington Free Beacon on Friday, Elizabeth Harrington reported, "The Forest Service oversees thousands of buildings that are unused, many that are falling apart, full of mold, and pose safety hazards, according to a new audit."

She continued, reporting:

"The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the Forest Service has compiled over $5 billion worth of repairs to buildings, roads, dams, and trails it operates.

"Officials admit they are becoming a "national junkyard" by overseeing thousands of decrepit buildings the government does not need.

"During our fieldwork, we observed [Forest Service] buildings that were not inspected as well as buildings that forest officials stated had structural issues, mold growth, wide-spread rodent droppings, and other health and safety concerns including 20 buildings with concerns so severe that officials referred to them as ‘red tagged,'" the inspector general reported.

"Red tag" refers to buildings and structures that are so unsafe they are closed.

"Some buildings had asbestos, and one residential building observed by auditors had a 15-foot hole in the roof, as well as mold and fire damage.

"As a result, unsafe structures can pose health and safety risks, such as hantavirus or other concerns, to [Forest Service] employees and the public," the inspector general said.

"The Forest Service manages almost 40,000 administrative, recreation, and research buildings. By comparison, there are 14,146 McDonald's restaurants in the U.S., and 13,172 Starbucks locations."

Harrington also reported "the Forest Service is not conducting safety inspections of dams that are considered high-risk. The Forest Service oversees approximately 3,200 dams nationwide . . . Auditors surveyed a sample of 182 dams the Forest Service oversees, and found 76 percent either had no documentation or did not receive required safety inspections."

Not surprisingly, she reported, "The Forest Service said a lack of consistent funding was the biggest challenge in addressing dam safety."

The Inspector General's 57-page audit report, "Forest Service Deferred Maintenance (Report No. 08601-0004-31, May 2017), has the details. Take a minute or two to review at least the one-page report highlights. There are five audit findings:

  1. Need for an overall deferred maintenance strategy
  2. Need to improve the facility inventory assessment process
  3. Need to assess safety and liability of the infrastructure
  4. Need to assess safety concerns with dams
  5. Need to address issues with deferred maintenance reporting

The Forest Service "generall agreed with" the IG's findings, and the IG "accepted management decisions on all 15 recommendations."

The report's audit findings are nothing if not shameful.  It would be interesting to review the President's recently proposed budget to see how much of the deferred maintenance will be covered by the proposed budget, not to mention how many of the Forest Service's dams will received safety inspections under the FY 2018 budget.

Are you satisfied with the performance of the Forest Service. Are you satisfied with the government oversight provided by your representatives in Congress.  Have you provided your Congressional representatives your thoughts about the Forest Service's deferred maintenance of its buildings and dams? If not, Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

May 27, 2017

May 2017 Porker of the Month Selected

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.

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The nonpartisan, nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has announced its selection of the May 2017 Porker of the Month, and he is Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.). He was selected "for his reckless push to revive earmarks, which are one of the most wasteful and corrupt practices in the history of Congress."

Here is CAGW's justification for selecting Rep. Rooney:

"On May 4, 2017, Rep. Rooney introduced a resolution that would change the definition of a “congressional earmark” to allow Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water projects to be earmarked in areas of the country that include his own district.  Rep. Rooney’s press release that same day dubbed earmarks a “fictitious boogeyman” and included a remarkably thoughtless, illogical, and arrogant attack on taxpayer advocates like CAGW:  “Frankly, if anyone is padding their pockets and buying votes in Congress, its political action committees that maintain their relevancy by perpetuating this idea that earmarks are the root of all evil and dysfunction in Washington.”

"CAGW President Tom Schatz said in a statement:  “It is sad to see Rep. Rooney fall into the same trap as countless disgraced, big-spending congressmen before him.  There is no such thing as a ‘limited’ exemption for some earmarks.  Cracking open that wasteful door will open the floodgates to the worst days of pork-barrel earmarking.  As voters made clear last year, it is time to clean up the swamp in the nation’s capital.  But Rep. Rooney is so much in love with earmarks that he is blind to the corruption and disarray that they have caused, including the loss of the House Republican majority in 2006.”

“His repeated and ill-advised attempts to restore earmarks cannot go unchallenged.  By attempting to undermine and circumvent the budget process in the name of personal and parochial interests, Rep. Rooney reveals everything that is wrong with the discredited and dysfunctional system.  As CAGW has noted, earmarks adversely impact agency priorities, reward special interests at the expense of taxpayers, and allow members of Congress to indulge their narcissistic vices, while a disproportionate amount of earmarked projects go to members of the Appropriations Committees such as Rep. Rooney himself.  In comments to The Atlantic on November 25, 2016, Rooney said of earmarks, ‘That’s governing. That’s solving problems.’  Our message to Rep. Rooney: Earmarks are not the solution to Congress’s problems; earmarks are the problem.”

"Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) famously said, earmarks are “the gateway drug to overspending.”  Passing budget-busting legislation should not be the aim of Congress when the national debt is poised to top $20 trillion.  Since 1991, Congress has approved 110,442 earmarks costing taxpayers $323.1 billion, including infamous boondoggles like the Bridge to Nowhere.  The very real result of a decade of earmark scandals was the incarceration of members of Congress, staff, and lobbyists."

For more information about Citizens Against Government Waste, click here.

May 26, 2017

Arlington County to Issue $185 Million of Bonds. Too Much?

A news item earlier today at the Arlington Sun Gazette says Arlington County has retained its AAA bond ratings.

According to the Sun Gazette:

"As it prepares to move forward with a new issuance of public debt, the Arlington County government has retained its top scores from the nation’s three major bond-rating houses.

"The AAA/AAA/Aaa ratings from Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Moody’s will allow the county government to continue borrowing funds at low interest rates. County-government officials also tout them as evidence of strong fiscal management.

"Government officials plan to shortly plunge into the bond market in an effort to sell up to $185 in general-obligation bonds, with the funds supporting a host of projects backed by voters in series of referendums in recent years.

"If market conditions are right, county officials also will try to refinance up to $200 million in existing debt at lower interest rates."

The news item closed by noting, "Arlington has maintained top ratings from all three agencies for 17 years, but on occasion during the period, one or more of the agencies has voiced concern about the overall health of the Washington area’s economy and its potential impact on local governments."

Two separate county press releases discuss these bonds:

  • On Tuesday, May 23, a press release announced that the Arlington County Board had "approved the sale of Series 2017 General Obligation (GO) Public Improvement & Refunding Bonds" to finance Schools and County projects. The county also announced, "Since 2009, unprecedented low interest rates have allowed the County to refinance more than $590 million of County, Schools and Utilities Fund general obligation debt – saving Arlington taxpayers more than $36 million."
  • A second press release, issued Wednesday, May 24, announced that the County's so-called Triple-Aaa bond ratings were reaffirmed. One of the two bullets in the press release noted that Arlington is just "one of only nine Virginia counties to receive highest rating from all three credit agencies." A second bullet said the "agencies praise County's solid financial position, conservative budgeting."

The items in the second bullets may indeed be true. However, according to a "GO Scorecard - Factors, Sub-factors, and Weights" published by one of the three credit rating agencies lists four factors:

  1. Economy/Tax Base -- 30%
  2. Finances -- 30%
  3. Management -- 20%
  4. Debt/Pensions -- 20%

The first factor -- economy/tax base -- includes three sub-factors: 10% each for full market value of taxable property; full value per capita; and median family income. So while management of our local county government deserves credit for keeping the finances and budget in peak condition, without the income and wealth of Arlington County taxpayers, it's unlikely the three credit rating agencies would look nearly so favorably on Arlington County.

The County Board action at its Tuesday recessed, May 23, 2017. meeting was based upon the Manager's report (Agenda Item 19). Growls readers may want to review the Manager's report since it contains some useful financial information, e.g., the amount of bonds authorized, issued, and remaining approved by Arlington voters in the 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 bond referenda for capital improvement projects.

The "fiscal impact" statement from the Manager report for agenda item 19 is especially worth reading. It says:

"A June 2017 closing date is planned to meet project scheduling and cash needs. The County’s previous general obligation bond issues have been rated Aaa/AAA/AAA by Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s, and Fitch Ratings, respectively. Ratings on this year’s bonds should be received on or around May 26. Based upon current market conditions, staff estimates that the County’s bonds should attain an average interest rate in the range of 2.7 to 3.2 percent.

"The combined $185.30 million new money bond issuance for County and Schools needs is estimated to increase annual debt service for the County by $7.4 million, and Schools by $7.5
 million, for a total of $14.3 million in FY 2018. The estimated debt service is within the amount included in both the County and Schools’ Adopted FY 2018 budgets, and complies with the County’s debt management policies including the debt ratio guidelines."

So, not surprisingly, the increased debt will require increasing taxes in succeeding years -- in the neighborhood of two cents on the real estate tax rate.

Which brings us to the question of whether Arlington County have too much debt? In his weekly opinion column, Peter's Take, yesterday at ARLnow.com, Peter Rousselot discusses just that question. He presents a number of factors that should be considered in making that determination. His conclusion, though, says:

"By continuing to focus on maintaining our AAA/AAA credit rating as the determinant for deciding whether to incur more debt, we are making a mistake. Attaching too much weight to this factor ignores other county debt. It also assumes that borrowing the maximum amount allowed by the ratings agencies is wise, and that Arlington’s tax base has a virtually unlimited capacity to absorb ongoing tax-rate and assessment increases without suffering ill effects."

Rousselot includes a chart from a Connection Newspapers 2o14 study that compares the per capita debt loads of Northern Virginia jurisdictions. Arlington County's per capita debt was third highest.

 

Kudos to Mr. Rousselot for his outstanding analysis, and for pointing out the County's focus on its Triple Aaa bond rating. While the county deserves praise for maintaining its financial and budget management positions, it's important to point out there is a cost to maintaining all that debt.

Do you think the county maintains too much debt? Do you think the county's debt per capita is too high? Should the county finance its capital project through so-called "pay-as-you-go" funding? If so, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

May 25, 2017

A Thought about Socialism and the Estate Tax

"Socialism has a specific meaning as an economic system, hinging on public ownership or control of wealth and capital. But it also has a wider moral and metaphysical basis: it stands for the supremacy of “society,” of human beings as an undifferentiated collective, over the rights and life of the individual. That’s the socialist premise that has taken residence in a lot of people’s heads, even people who would be considered staunchly on the Right. To the extent they agree to think about “society” instead of individuals, to the extent they cede moral authority to the “interests of society,” not as a mere aggregate of the interests and rights of individuals, but as something that supersedes those rights, they have allowed a little dominion of socialism over their thinking.

"Now we can return to . . . (the) question about why the Left is so determined to keep the estate tax, although it currently raises very little revenue. They want to keep it because they hope someday to expand it, the way they have expanded every other power of government, with the goal of totally expropriating the wealth of every person upon his or her death. They fight to keep the tax in place, even at a small level, in order to preserve the principle of the tax, the principle that everyone’s wealth ultimately belongs to society and therefore can be seized by the state. That’s a principle with much wider application than the estate tax, so you can see why they invest a seemingly small thing with such importance."

~ Robert Tracinski

Source: his May 10, 2017 column, "Even Prominent Conservatives Have Socialism Hiding Inside Their Heads," posted at The Federalist.

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Robert Tracinski is a senior writer at The Federalist, and editor of the The Tracinski Letter.

May 24, 2017

Audit of Arlington County Fire Department's Ambulance-Process

A news story in today's Arlington Sun Gazette tells about the reforms to the Arlington County Fire Department's (ACFD) ambulance-process.

According to the Sun Gazette:

"Arlington public-safety personnel and their families have lost a perk that county officials acknowledge most probably should not have had access to in the first place.

"As a result of an audit of ambulance-billing services conducted last year, the Arlington County Fire Department has eliminated its practice of “courtesy waivers” of the cost of ambulance service to county personnel and their families.

“It went adrift,” acknowledged Fire Chief James Bonzano, who told County Board members that the original policy had applied to personnel transported to the hospital in what were expected to be workers’-compensation cases.

"Bonzano, who was named fire chief a year ago, said the department already had held discussions about eliminating the waivers before then-auditor Jessica Tucker singled out the policy in a review of ambulance-billing issues.

“We turned the ship around,” Bonzano said of the policy.

"Arlington long has charged for ambulance transport, and the fees are not insubstantial, ranging from $500 to $850, plus $12 per mile. Annually, the fees bring in about $3 million to county coffers.

"Tucker’s audit of ambulance billing was the only one finished during her five-month tenure in office. She departed later in 2016 for a job in California, and was replaced by Chris Horton, who had been an auditor with Fairfax County Public Schools.

"The ambulance-fee review brought up a number of other issues, including the relationship between the fire department and the billing contractor, and the agreement between the fire department and county treasurer’s office, which handles delinquent bills."

The Fire Chief reports, "All the recommendation have been implemented."

The Sun Gazette concluded their reporting by noting:

“This audit is really the first fruits of the new county auditor position,” said County Board member John Vihstadt, who with board chairman Jay Fisette serves on the panel overseeing the auditors’ work.

"Vihstadt praised the fire department for 'fine work' in implementing the recommendations."

Do you want to know more about the audit of the Fire Department's ambulance billing process? Do you want to know more about the work of the County Auditor? If so, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

UPDATE (May 30, 2017): Further details about the audit can be found in a 10-slide March 23, 2017 PowerPoint presentation to the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) are available here.

May 23, 2017

A Thought about the Peoplel Fit to Govern

"It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others."

~ Lord Acton

Source: Lord Acton Quote Archive, Acton Institute.

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John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, 1st Baron Acton, (born January 10, 1834, Naples [Italy]—died June 19, 1902, Tegernsee, Bavaria, Germany), English Liberal historian and moralist, the first great modern philosopher of resistance to the state, whether its form be authoritarian, democratic, or socialist. A comment that he wrote in a letter, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” today has become a familiar aphorism. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1837, and he was raised to the peerage in 1869. (Britannica.com).

May 22, 2017

Federal Environmental Prosecutions Fall to Record Low

A report released today by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data gathering, data research and data distribution organization at Syracuse University, says:

"The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during the first six months of FY 2017 the government reported 152 new environment prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be 304 for this fiscal year. According to the case- by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this estimate would be the lowest ever recorded since the Justice Department started tracking its environmental prosecutions over two decades ago. (emphasis added)

"The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with environment-related offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United States Attorneys. Year-to-year comparisons suggest that FY 2017 prosecutions will be down 22.6 percent over the past fiscal year when the number of prosecutions totaled 393. This assumes trends are unchanged for the remainder of this year. See Table 1.

"Compared to five years ago when there were 612 new prosecutions filed, the estimate for FY 2017 environmental prosecutions is down 50.3 percent. Prosecutions over the past six months are also much lower than they were ten years ago when the annual number of defendants accused of breaking criminal environmental laws peaked at 927.

"The long term trend in environment prosecutions for these matters going back to FY 1997 is shown more clearly in Figure 1. The vertical bars in Figure 1 represent the number of environmental prosecutions recorded each fiscal year. Projected figures for the current fiscal year are shown. Each presidential administration is distinguished by the color of the bars."

The following chart was part of the TRAC report:

 

By category, most prosecutions were for "environmental crimes related to protecting the nation's wildlife. Of the 152 prosecutions in the first six months of FY 2017, 14 involved prosecutions of businesses; the rest involved individuals. Two agencies -- Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency were responsible for almost 70% of the referrals.

The Pew Research Center reported on December 14, 2016, "Most Americans favor stricter environmental laws and regulations." Specifically, Kristen Bialik writes:

"A majority of U.S. adults (59%) say stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost, compared with roughly a third (34%) who say such regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy, according to the survey, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 5."

She also wrote that adults favoring stricter environmental regulation can vary by state. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey showed, she wrote, that people "living in states with relatively high per capita incomes . . . are more likely to support stricter environmental regulations."

Could it be that during the past eight years, federal bureaucrats were so concerned with saving the planet from global warming that they fell asleep at the wheel, failing to adequately protect the public from other significant environmental issues, e.g., the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, or the toxic water spill into Colorado's Animas River?

Are you satisfied that your representatives in Congress are effectively representing your views on the environment? Are you satisfied your representatives are providing effective oversight of the agencies charged in protecting the environment? Have you provided your Congressional representatives your thoughts about the environment recently? If not, Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

For more information about the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), click here.

May 21, 2017

Federal Government Wasted at Least $144 Billion in 2016

Susan Jones of CNS News reported on Thursday, May 18, "Improper payments by the federal government are costing taxpayers billions of dollars a year – more than a trillion, if you add them up over the years, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro told the Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday." She added that Dodaro said, "These are payments that should not have been made or were made in the wrong amounts,” in his opening statement.

In addition, Jones reported:

"The problem is growing, he said, from $125 billion in 2014; to $137 billion in 2015; to the most recent estimate of $144 billion in 2016. “This includes estimates for 112 programs at 22 federal agencies, so it is a pervasive problem,” he added.

"Since 2003 – when Congress required many executive departments and agencies to estimate the amount of improper payments annually – the cumulative total is estimated to be “in excess of $1.2 trillion,” Dodaro said. “So it’s a significant amount of money.”

"Dodaro said three big federal programs – Medicare, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit -- account for most (75 percent) of the improper payments. “But there are a number of programs across government where this problem is an issue,” he said.

"And the problem is worse than the numbers indicate, because 18 “risk-susceptible” programs – including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families -- do not report estimates at all. SNAP (food stamps) stopped reporting in 2015. And the $144 billion in 2016 does not include estimates from the Defense Department, which could be a sizeable number, Dodaro said.

"Dodaro said the issue of improper payments “is an area that I believe requires additional and more aggressive congressional oversight.”

"In the case of welfare payments – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – Dodaro said the Department of Health and Human Services believes it lacks the statutory authority to ask the states for information to estimate improper payments."

The problem, unfortunately, is probably worse. For example, Jones writes, "SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, reported improper payment estimates through 2015, “and then they identified a problem with the quality of the information” in 42 of the 53 states and territories. Dodaro said he expects SNAP to resume making estimates once they fix the problems." In addition, she points out, "The Defense Department’s estimates of improper payments 'aren’t accurate' because the department does not 'document the full universe of transactions.'"

She includes the following chart that breaks down the "improper payments."

   

Are you satisfied that your representatives in Congress are providing sufficient oversight of your tax dollars? Have you provided your Congressional representatives your thoughts recently? If not, Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

For more information about CNS News, read here.

May 20, 2017

Arlington County's Own "Field of Dreams"

We growled on February 26, 2014 after the Arlington County Board, the previous evening, authorized $6.6 million for construction of a year-round homeless facility that will be "located on the second and third floors of 2020-14th Street." The contract was authorized "in an amount not to exceed $5,508,274, plus a contingency of $1,101,655, for a total contract authorization of $6,609,929," according to the Board's February 24 recessed agenda (recessed item 12)."

And two years later, what do we have? In this week's Arlington Sun Gazette (page 3), Scott McCaffrey reports, "New regional data suggest that Arlington's efforts to eradicate homelessness will not be a straight line down to zero."

McCaffrey continued, writing:

“We have a long way to go – homelessness is still a serious problem,” said Kathleen Sibert, CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN), after new figures from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments showed a 33-percent increase in the number of homeless in Arlington, from 174 in 2016 to 232 in 2017.

"That growth, which came after years of declines, put Arlington outside the mainstream of other regional jurisdictions, which saw their homeless counts either stay flat or decline between 2016 and 2017.

"Regionally, a total of 11,128 people were noted as homeless in 2017, down 9 percent from the year before, based on a count taken Jan. 25 and reported May 10. Figures represent both those living in shelters and those on the streets.

"Arlington’s efforts to eliminate homelessness over a decade-long time frame seemed to be moving in the right direction until the most recent figures were handed down. Homelessness in the county had been cut more than in half prior to the recent spike.

"In a statement, Arlington government officials described the change from 2016 to 2017 as a “slight rise” – perhaps an odd phrase for what was a one-third increase.

"Sibert, whose organization runs Arlington’s year-round homeless-services center under contract with the county government, said the higher number for 2017 was caused, in part, because of a larger number of families in local shelters, and because more people were using the government’s hypothermia shelters due to extreme cold when the count was taken.

"Overall, she said, the trend remains positive."

Your humble scribe had an opportunity to weigh-in on the latest homeless counts from the Metropolitan Council of Governments (MWCOG):

"But Tim Wise, who heads the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, wondered aloud if the new homeless-services center may be serving as a magnet.

"While Arlington officials say those from other jurisdictions are not allowed to use its services, Wise is dubious.

“Build a homeless shelter, and the homeless will find it,” he said."

Check the table, which McCaffrey includes with his article for  the homeless counts of the nine jurisdictions in MWCOG's annual effort. Here's the link to the 125-page 2017 MWCOG report and archive of earlier annual reports.

Arlington County's May 12, 2017 press release includes the following two paragraphs:

“We believe that the increase in Arlington’s numbers this year do not reflect the long-term trend in our County,” said Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. “Since 2008, when we launched the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Arlington has cut its number of homeless persons by more than half. We’ve made great strides in housing veterans and chronically homeless individuals and families,” she said. “We have a strong continuum of care, which includes County programs and community partners and supports our goal of ensuring that every individual and family in Arlington should have access to decent, affordable housing.”

"Cristol, who is the Board liaison to the County’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness effort, said she was encouraged by the decline in homelessness regionally. “That decline was achieved through programs like shelter diversion and homelessness prevention, which have been drivers of our success here in Arlington. At the same time, the regional data highlights our greatest challenge: the need to increase the supply of affordable housing available to the lowest-income households.”

Are you concerned about the operation of the homeless shelter?  About the cost? About the public safety? If so, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

May 19, 2017

How About Rethinking How You Tax Arlingtonians

At the Arlington County Board's recessed meeting on Tuesday, May 23, the Board is being asked (agenda item #38)to adopt amendments to the Code of Arlington County "to increase the residential utility tax rates" that will become effective July 1, 2017.

Earlier today, we learned from the Arlington Sun Gazette:

"Higher Arlington taxes on electricity and natural gas will not have much of an impact on those who use little energy for their homes, nor on those who use a lot.

"Those in the middle, however, will see their tax bills rise slightly under changes coming to Arlington starting in July.

"Under the plan, set for adoption by County Board members, the current local residential electricity tax of 0.341 cents per kilowatt-hour will rise to 0.5115 cents, while the current residential tax on natural gas of 3 cents per 100 cubic feet (also called a “therm”) will rise to 4.5 cents.

"All told, county officials expect to bring in an additional $652,000 from the higher tax rates."

Interestingly, the Sun Gazette noted, "What percentage of households do not use enough energy in a given month to trigger any tax? Arlington officials say they don’t have precise enough information to provide specifics, but do have some informed guesses."

The report to the Board for agenda item #38 includes a chart comparing residential utility tax rates and minimums in Northern Virginia for FY 2018.

The Manager even spells out how the $652,000 will be spent:

The estimated $652,000 increase in revenue from this recommended change in residential utility tax rates was included in the FY 2018 adopted budget and was allocated to personnel costs related to shifting a Principal Planner (1.0 FTE) from the General Fund to the AIRE program ($150,000); consultant expenses associated with energy analysis and modeling for a review of the CEP in 2018 ($100,000); and with the remaining $402,000 used for increased investments in energy efficiency in County and APS facilities. In FY 2018, APS will receive $303,832 under the Principles of Revenue Sharing agreement from the increase in this local tax."

But remember, the Arlington County Board is concerned about your tax burden since the Manager reports, "Arlington remains the only jurisdiction in Northern Virginia that excludes the first 400 kWh of electricity usage and the first 20 CCF of natural gas usage from taxation. Arlington also remains the only jurisdiction in Northern Virginia that does not impose a monthly minimum tax on consumers."

Never fear your tax dollars have not been abused. The Manager reports the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy (AIRE) program has operated for more than 10 years and "significant progress has been made." He even provides a "sampling of major accomplishments, e.g., a "10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from County operations."

Are you concerned with how Arlington bureaucrats use the utility tax revenues they extract from Arlington County taxpayers? For example, for so-called efficiency rebates, or for light bulb exchanges or for "innovative educational programs like the Energy Journey?" If so, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

May 18, 2017

A Thought about the Art of Government

"In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other."

~ Voltaire

Source: page 92, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

                                             - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

According to Britannica.com, "Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet (born November 21, 1694, Paris, France—died May 30, 1778, Paris), one of the greatest of all French writers. Although only a few of his works are still read, he continues to be held in worldwide repute as a courageous crusader against tyranny, bigotry, and cruelty. Through its critical capacity, wit, and satire, Voltaire’s work vigorously propagates an ideal of progress to which people of all nations have remained responsive. His long life spanned the last years of classicism and the eve of the revolutionary era, and during this age of transition his works and activities influenced the direction taken by European civilization."

Several You Tube histories of Voltaire are also available, including a 36-minute one here.  Another, nearly two-hour one on Voltaire's philosophy, according to Will Durant, is here.

May 17, 2017

The Flaws in Those Climate Models

In a Defining Ideas essay for Stanford University's Hoover Institution, David Henderson, Hoover research fellow, and Charles Hooper, former Hoover visiting fellow, explain the flaws in the general climate models, which are the basis for government climate policy.

Henderson and Hooper introduce their paper, writing:

"The atmosphere is about 0.8˚ Celsius warmer than it was in 1850. Given that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has risen 40 percent since 1750 and that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, a reasonable hypothesis is that the increase in CO2 has caused, and is causing, global warming.

"But a hypothesis is just that. We have virtually no ability to run controlled experiments, such as raising and lowering CO2 levels in the atmosphere and measuring the resulting change in temperatures. What else can we do? We can build elaborate computer models that use physics to calculate how energy flows into, through, and out of our planet’s land, water, and atmosphere. Indeed, such models have been created and are frequently used today to make dire predictions about the fate of our Earth.

"The problem is that these models have serious limitations that drastically limit their value in making predictions and in guiding policy. Specifically, three major problems exist. They are described below, and each one alone is enough to make one doubt the predictions. All three together deal a devastating blow to the forecasts of the current models."

They then describe in detail at least three categories of problems that they see with climate models, specifically:

  1. Measurement Error
  2. The Sun's Energy
  3. Cloud Errors

They write there are other complications. Indeed, they say, "Even the relationship between CO2 concentrations and temperature is complicated, e.g., they write:

"The glacial record shows geological periods with rising CO2 and global cooling and periods with low levels of atmospheric CO2 and global warming. Indeed, according to a 2001 article in Climate Research by astrophysicist and geoscientist Willie Soon and his colleagues, “atmospheric CO2 tends to follow rather than lead temperature and biosphere changes.”

The authors point out, "The ultimate test for a climate model is the accuracy of its predictions. But the models predicted that there would be much greater warming between 1998 and 2014 than actually happened." Specifically, however, they note:

"If the models were doing a good job, their predictions would cluster symmetrically around the actual measured temperatures. That was not the case here; a mere 2.4 percent of the predictions undershot actual temperatures and 97.6 percent overshot, according to Cato Institute climatologist Patrick Michaels, former MIT meteorologist Richard Lindzen, and Cato Institute climate researcher Chip Knappenberger. Climate models as a group have been “running hot,” predicting about 2.2 times as much warming as actually occurred over 1998–2014. Of course, this doesn’t mean that no warming is occurring, but, rather, that the models’ forecasts were exaggerated."

In conclusion, Henderson and Hooper write:

"If someone with a hand-held stopwatch tells you that a runner cut his time by 0.00005 seconds, you should be skeptical. If someone with a climate model tells you that a 0.036 Wm–2 CO2 signal can be detected within an environment of 150 Wm–2 error, you should be just as skeptical.

"As Willie Soon and his coauthors found, “Our current lack of understanding of the Earth’s climate system does not allow us to determine reliably the magnitude of climate change that will be caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, let alone whether this change will be for better or for worse.”

For three additional takes on climate modes, see:

  1. Roy Spencer, who has testified before Congress, and provides a great graph at this post, writes, "I’ve updated our comparison of 90 climate models versus observations for global average surface temperatures through 2013, and we still see that >95% of the models have over-forecast the warming trend since 1979, whether we use their own surface temperature dataset (HadCRUT4), or our satellite dataset of lower tropospheric temperatures (UAH):"
  2. Browse the April 22 and 29 and the May 6 and 13 newsletter, The Week That Was (among many others), of the Science and Environmental Policy Project.
  3. Finally, Judith Curry, former chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, writes that so-called Red Team/Blue Teams could be used to "rigorously and independently evaluate climate model output."

At this point, you may be wondering what anthropogenic global warming has to do with a blog that generally focuses on anti-tax positions. As Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) writes in an op-ed at the Washington Times on March 28, 2017,  the Paris Climate Accord could cost the United States $3 trillion and 6.5 million jobs by 2040.

Meanwhile in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe moves to "cap greenhouse gas emissions from Virginia power plants," as described by Jim Bacon yesterday at Bacon's Rebellion. And the environmentally-friendly Arlington County Board has been spending the taxpayers money of Arlington County taxpayers for several years now on its Community Energy Plan (CEP) with such visions as "generating energy locally using renewables and other technologies." But what the heck, CEP was a semi-finalist for the Georgetown University Energy Prize. So, you can see Arlington County taxpayers provide the government the money to allow government to do all kinds of good things.

Do you have concerns or questions about Arlington County's Community Energy Plan? If so, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

If your concerns about anthropogenic global warming involve the federal or Commonwealth of Virginia government, either scroll down to contact links for your members of Congress or Virginia elected officials or use the search facility to locate a Growls with their names.

May 16, 2017

A Thought about Progressive Income Taxation

"A highly progressive income tax structure tends to discourage investment in human capital because it tends to reduce take-home pay and the reward to highly skilled, highly paid occupations."

~ Gary S. Becker, Edward P. Lazear, and Kevin M. Murphy

Source: page 148, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

May 15, 2017

All the Proof Needed for Why Climate Change is a Scam

Henry Miller, physician and senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, writes in an op-ed in this past weekend's Wall Street Journal (behind WSJ paywall), saying that research can be a "wise investment of  tax dollars, but agencies also fund ridiculous boondoggles."

According to Dr. Miller:

"Research is the lifeblood of technological innovation, which drives economic growth and keeps America competitive. Government-funded scientific research runs the gamut from studies of basic physical and biological processes to the development of applications to meet immediate needs. Unfortunately, the definition of what constitutes “science” has gradually expanded to include sociology, economics and woo-woo “alternative medicine.” Much of the spending on these disciplines by the nation’s two major funders of nonmilitary research, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, is systematically shortchanging taxpayers.

"The NSF, whose mission is to ensure U.S. leadership in areas of science and technology that are essential to economic growth and national security, frequently funds politically correct but low-value research projects. A few doozies include the veiling-fashion industry in Turkey, Viking textiles in Iceland, the “social impacts” of tourism in the northern tip of Norway, and whether hunger causes couples to fight (using the number of pins stuck in voodoo dolls as a measure of aggressive feelings). Research funding in the geosciences, including climate change, is certainly legitimate, but not when it goes to ludicrous boondoggles such as a climate-change musical that cost $697,177 to produce. (emphasis added)

"The primary culprit is the NSF’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, known as SBE. Underlying its ability to dispense grants is the wrongheaded notion that social-science projects such as a study of animal depictions in National Geographic and a climate change musical are as important as research to identify early markers for Alzheimer’s disease or pancreatic cancer."

Dr. Miller acknowledges that most of the National Institutes of Health's $32 billion research budget is justified. However, he says there is "one institute that is the brainchild of politicians—the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (formerly the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine)—on average does far-less-significant work than the others, but receives a significant amount of grant funding."

Dr. Miller concludes his op-ed, writing:

"In 2016, NIH could afford to fund fewer than 20% of the investigator-initiated research grant proposals it received. That NCCIH is still allowed to spend $124 million annually is an affront to the NIH-funded researchers who are at the cutting edge of their disciplines and face increasing difficulty getting federal funding for studies that rank highly on scientific merit. (emphasis added)

"The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has projected that China will overtake the U.S. in research and development spending by around 2019. If the U.S. is to remain competitive in medical and scientific innovation we must increase overall spending—and also be more discerning about the nation’s research priorities. A good first step would be for the scientific community to demand that politicians forego political correctness and prioritize funding for research that is in America’s best interest."

Knowing that NIH spent almost $700,000 of Americans' tax dollars for a "climate-change musical" is all you need to know why many consider climate change is a hoax. In fact, it seems the entire budget of the NCCIH needs a thorough scrubbing. Perhaps the entire NCCIH should be scrubbed.

Do you think Congress needs to provide greater oversight of spending by the National Institutes of Health? Do you think Congress especially needs to provide greater oversight of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)? If so, Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

May 14, 2017

Union Presidents Earn More than CEOs?

Bill McMorris reports at the Washington Free Beacon this morning on the results of a new report, which shows, "Average salary for union leaders is nearly $60,000 higher than that of chief executives."

McMorris reports:

"Leading union officials earned an average salary of $252,370 in 2016, outpacing the average salary of private sector chief executives, according to a new report.

"The Center for Union Facts compiled the salary information from federal labor filings of 192 of the largest national, state, and local unions. The report found that labor presidents enjoyed nearly a $60,000 advantage over the take-home pay of the nation's business leaders, who earned an average of $194,350, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"The average compensation of union officials, which includes salary and other perks, was $283,678, according to the report.

"Airline Pilots Association President Timothy Canoll was the highest-paid union official, according to the federal data. He earned total compensation of $775,829 with a base salary of $526,292. The union, which is a member of the AFL-CIO, gave Canoll about $250,000 in perks in addition to the take-home pay, including $24,000 in allowances and $29,000 in official business expenses, such as meals and entertainment. He was given $196,534 in compensation classified as "Other."

"The association did not return an email seeking comment about the nature of Canoll's compensation or the details of his additional benefits."

He also wrote:

"The Center for Union Facts report is intended to rebut the AFL-CIO's annual Executive Paywatch report, which highlights the pay disparity between business executives and their employees. The union compares the average pay of S&P 500 CEOs and that of the average rank-and-file members. The gap between the two groups is enormous, with CEOs making $13.1 million in total compensation compared to $37,632 for the average production worker—"a CEO-to-worker pay ratio of 347 to 1."

"Last year, S&P 500 CEOs got a 5.9% raise while working people struggled to make ends meet," the union's website says.

"The methodology of the union report has come under scrutiny in the past because it does not reflect the actual labor landscape but focuses only on the most lucrative companies. Economist Mark Perry, a scholar at the pro-free market American Enterprise Institute and a University of Michigan-Flint professor, criticized the union's 2014 report for including part-time workers in its calculations. Perry was equally critical of the 2016 report, calling it "fake facts."

"The AFL-CIO did not return a request for comment."

McMorris includes a Tweet from Professor Mark Perry.

Perry Chiaramonte reported on the AFL-CIO "Paywatch" report for Fox News on Friday, writing:

"A powerful labor union's new report slams the pay gap between CEOs and rank-and-file workers, but critics say it conveniently ignores the sky-high salaries union bosses pull down.

"The AFL-CIO’s annual Executive Paywatch  report, unveiled this week, found that last year the average S&P 500 CEO earned a total of $13.1 million in compensation, while the average U.S. worker made only $37,632, a pay ratio of 347:1. But not included in any of the figures are the total compensations of nearly 192 union presidents who earned more than the average executive’s income.

"By attacking business leaders with cherry-picked data, labor leaders are glossing over their own startling pay discrepancies,” Luka Ladan, spokesman for Center for Union Facts, told Fox News. “The AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions would be better off figuring out how to effectively serve their disgruntled members than scoring cheap PR points.”

"Officials for the AFL-CIO did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"An audit of past Paywatch reports by the American Enterprise Institute found that the AFL-CIO’s conclusion of the disparaging CEO-to-worker pay ratio is faulty and misleading, saying that the actual average U.S. chief executive earns $194,350."

While the numbers above appear rather clear, readers should always be aware that statistics can be used and abused. For example, in a post about "the use and abuse of statistics in the media," the Mathematical Association of America writes:

"The numbers may be against us because reporters and readers too often fail to dissect the statistics in news reports.

"A large audience at the MAA's Carriage House Conference Center on Oct. 28, 2008, absorbed this message when mathematician Rebecca Goldin of George Mason University illustrated how the media miss the mark in the use and presentation of statistics in stories about the economy, health, science, and education. Goldin titled her talk "Spinning Heads and Spinning News: Statistics in the Media."

"But that doesn't let readers and consumers off the hook. They need to be aware that inaccurate representations of science shape public policy and legislation and affect people's choices, Goldin warned. Everyone should have some understanding of statistical concepts and their use in such fields as epidemiology and toxicology."

Finally, in an October 18, 2016 column for Forbes.com on union presidents' pay, Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, concluded his column by writing, "Union members need to wake up. Their leaders have conned them for a century, killing union jobs while getting rich in the process."

May 13, 2017

Tax Freedom Day 2017 Was April 23

According to Scott Greenberg of the the Tax Foundation, "Tax Freedom Day® is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes—individual as well as payroll, sales and excise, corporate and property taxes—and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2017, Americans will pay $3.5 trillion in federal taxes and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $5.1 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 23, 113 days into the year."

The five key findings in the Tax Foundation's report were:

  • This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 23rd, 113 days into the year.
  • Tax Freedom Day is a significant date for taxpayers and lawmakers because it represents how long Americans as a whole have to work in order to pay the nation’s tax burden.
  • Americans will pay $3.5 trillion in federal taxes and $1.6 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total bill of more than $5.1 trillion, or 31 percent of the nation’s income.
  • Americans will collectively spend more on taxes in 2017 than they will on food, clothing, and housing combined.
  • If you include annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur 14 days later, on May 7.

Tax Freedom Day in Virginia is the same as in the entire United States, i.e., April 23. It comes earliest for residents of Mississippi (April 5) and latest for residents of Connecticut (May 21).  The following Tax Foundation map shows when Tax Freedom Day arrives in each state.

We growled about Tax Freedom Day 2016 on April 24, 2016, and about Tax Freedom Day 2015 on April 2, 2015. Use the search feature in the lower right column to find when we growled about other Tax Freedom Days, or scroll down the page to find what else we growl about. Or visit the archives in the right column, and just scroll through one or two months.

Do you believe Congress needs to reform and simplify the tax code? Or, better yet, to pass a flat tax? Do you know what your representatives in Congress are doing to bring about a simplified federal tax system? Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives your views. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

For more information about the Tax Foundation, visit this webpage.

May 12, 2017

A Vacuum of Fiscal Responsiblity

According to the Washington Post's Robert McCartney last weekend, "Northern Virginia’s local governments are sharply divided among themselves — and with the District and Maryland — over a proposed regional sales tax to fund Metro."

McCartney then continued, writing:

"The discord was evident Thursday night at a transit policy meeting in Tysons Corner. It was an early sign of how difficult it will be to achieve a regional consensus on how to raise the billions of dollars of additional funds Metro needs in coming years to provide a safe and reliable system.

"At a regular meeting of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, county and city officials spoke strongly against a recent recommendation for a uniform, penny-per-dollar tax for Metro. They objected that Northern Virginia — because of its large population and high volume of sales to be taxed — would pay more than the District and Maryland combined.

"In addition, a split was evident between transit-friendly inner suburbs — such as Arlington and Falls Church — and the outer suburb of Loudoun over how the burden should be shared within Northern Virginia. (emphasis added)

“It’s inevitable, because they’re two different worlds in terms of usage of the Metro,” Fairfax Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville) said afterward.

"The disagreements were especially telling, because they arose shortly after former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood told the commission that his goal in leading a new study of Metro was to broker a regionwide compromise on funding and governance.

"It was LaHood’s first meeting with the commission since Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) tapped him to head a panel to report by this fall on how to fix the transit system. The commission is responsible for Northern Virginia’s funding and stewardship of Metro."

McCartney also reported on a "pointed exchange" at the Commission meeting, writing:

"In one of the session’s more pointed exchanges, Del. David A. LaRock (R-Loudoun) accused the District’s chief financial officer, Jeffrey S. DeWitt, of trying to stick Northern Virginia with the bill for the District’s fiscal challenges.

"DeWitt had just laid out the recent proposal for a regionwide sales tax endorsed by administrative and budget experts of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, or COG.

"LaRock, like others on the commission, criticized the plan because it provides that Northern Virginia would contribute 51 percent of the $650 million raised annually by the tax.

"By contrast, the District’s share would be 23 percent. The two Maryland counties served by Metro — Montgomery and Prince George’s — would account for 26 percent.

“How is this not Washington, D.C., passing off its financial liabilities to Virginia?” LaRock asked Dewitt."

Talk about a vacuum of fiscal responsibility. The jurisdictions are fighting over new taxes without first determining if the cost is worth the result regardless of the funding source, or even whether the transportation system could be privatized. We growled about such a possibility on January 21, 2017 based upon a suggestion by Cato Institute's Chris Edwards at their blog, Cato@Liberty, who wrote:

"Why not privatize Metro? Countries around the world have been privatizing their transportation infrastructure in order to improve management and efficiency. Privatizing Metro buses would be straightforward, but even privatizing the subway system would not be an unheard of reform."

Edwards then discussed an infrastructure study by the consultancy McKinsey that describes how "Hong Kong privatized its subway system in 2000." Has the Metro board of directors looked at this possibility?

Are there other alternatives that could be considered in order to shut down Metro? For example,  telecommuting, flex-time/flex-place, Trump's anticipated reduction of the federal government's presence in DC, as well as recent bills that would direct agencies to move significant operations to high-unemployment areas of America.

In addition, express buses can be substituted, stopping only at Metro stations, also, at lower costs and better reliability. Arlington is best situated to drop WMATA -- our ART buses can duplicate commuting times within the County or to D.C. and Alexandria if you include wait times and escalator times in the calculations. Perhaps a few people who chose to live in Fairfax and work in Silver Spring will want to reconsider those decisions, but it isn't worth billions to the region to spare them that exercise.

WMATA has been all over the map on the question of its needs -- from $7.5 billion over 10 years to $30--60 billion. It seems regional taxpayers are being bamboozled with smoke and mirrors in order to get as much as they can, then say that we have to pay the rest rather than risk what was already paid. The WMATA "solution" is being driven by big-government hacks and the unions, and may set the region back decades, if not permanently.

McCartney's article is worth reading in its entirety.

A few other questions before completing this Growls. Will any of the "new revenue" cover past unfunded  pension costs? How much? Since non-riders will be paying more of the operating costs, how will their satisfaction be measured? Will additional bloat and corruption be greenlighted since additional billions will be sloshing through the Metro system? Just wondering.

Do you have concerns or questions about the future of WMATA and the future of transportation in the Washington, D.C. region? If so, Growls readers are encouraged to contact the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the following link:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

May 11, 2017

A Thought about the Ruling Class

"The ruling class  has the schools and press under its thumb. This enables it to sway the emotions of the masses."

~ Albert Einstein

Source: Insight, Mid-Day Digest, March 30, 2017, The Patriot Post.

May 10, 2017

IRS Overpays 600 of Its Own Employees; Underpays 900

At CNS News today, Terry Jeffrey reports, "The Internal Revenue Service, which is responsible for collecting federal taxes and enforcing federal tax law, was unable to accurately deal with its own complex rules governing the payment of its own employees and ended up overpaying more than 600 IRS workers about $4,200,000, according to an audit report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration."

Jeffrey continues his reporting, writing:

"The IRS also underpaid more than 900 employees about $2,700,000, according to TIGTA's estimate.

The inspector general found that the IRS’s rules for how it determines the correct pay for one of its own employees when he or she is promoted to a management position are “confusing.”

“The procedures for setting pay require the application of cumbersome and oftentimes confusing rules that vary depending on, among other things, the nature of the promotion, the salary history of the employee, and the management position the employee will be occupying,” the inspector general said in a report entitled, “Some Managerial Salaries Were Calculated Incorrectly Due to Complex Pay-Setting Rules.”

"The IG audited a sample of the pay records of nearly 5,000 IRS management-level employees who received pay increases of more than 10 percent over a ten-year period.

“Analysis of pay records from January 2006 to November 2015 identified 4,985 IRS employees who received a pay increase that exceeded 10 percent, which would generally be the maximum amount an employee would receive when being permanently promoted to a management position,” the IG report explained.

“We examined pay records for a statistically valid sample of these employees and found that 85 (31 percent) of 274 employees were not paid correctly,” the IG said. “Based on our sample of results, we estimate that the IRS overpaid more than 600 employees by approximately $4.2 million and underpaid more than 900 employees by approximately $2.7 million between fiscal years 2006 and 2015

"The IRS’s miscalculation of its own employees pay had a negative effect on the lives of those employees, who were not responsible for—or even aware of—their incorrect compensation level.

“However, improper payments are not the only concern,” the IG report said.

“Errors in setting pay, especially those discovered years after they were made, can have a significant impact on employees because employees are required to reimburse the IRS for the amount of the overpayment,” said the IG."

Finally, Terry notes, "The IRS agreed with the recommendations."

Take a couple of minutes to read the report in its entirety.

And you wonder why the IRS has so much difficulty computing the correct amount of taxes, which taxpayers owe? Now wouldn't a flat tax be so much fairer?

May 09, 2017

A Thought abut Taxation

"A government which robs Peter to pay can always depend on the support of Paul."

~ George Bernard Shaw

Source: page 82, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.

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Irish dramatist and critic (1856--1950). George Bernard Shaw was not merely the best comic dramatist of his time but also one of the most significant playwrights in the English language since the 17th century. (Encyclopedia Britannica).

May 08, 2017

A Thought about Taxpayers and Class Division

"The fundamental class division in any society is not between rich and poor or between farmers and city dwellers, but between taxpayers and tax consumers."

~ David Boaz

Source: page 136, "As Certain as Death: Quotations About Taxes," 2010, compiled by Jeffrey L. Yablon, TaxAnalysts.com.
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According to his Cato Institute biography:

"David Boaz is the executive vice president of the Cato Institute and has played a key role in the development of the Cato Institute and the libertarian movement. He is the author of The Libertarian Mind: A Manifesto for Freedom and the editor of The Libertarian Reader.

"Boaz is a provocative commentator and a leading authority on domestic issues such as education choice, drug legalization, the growth of government, and the rise of libertarianism. Boaz is the former editor of New Guard magazine and was executive director of the Council for a Competitive Economy prior to joining Cato in 1981. The earlier edition of The Libertarian Mind, titled Libertarianism: A Primer, was described by the Los Angeles Times as “a well-researched manifesto of libertarian ideas.” His other books include The Politics of Freedom and the Cato Handbook for Policymakers."

May 07, 2017

'Mandatory' Federal Healthcare Spending Now Tops $1 Trillion

Terry Jeffrey reported this week at CNS News, "'Mandatory' federal health care spending under what the Congressional Budget Office calls "major health care programs" exceeded $1,000,000,000,000 for the first time in fiscal 2016, according to the latest historical data published by the CBO."

He went on to explain:

"Mandatory" federal spending on these major health care programs, according to the CBO's data, increased by 48.3 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2016, when measured in constant 2016 dollars.

"According to the CBO's data, this type of federal spending was more than 20 times greater in fiscal 2016 than it was in 1969--the year President Lyndon Johnson (who signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965) was succeeded by President Richard Nixon.

"In fiscal 2016, the federal government spent a net of $1,011,800,000,000 on major health care programs, according to CBO.

"That was up from the net $936,500,000,000 (in constant 2016 dollars) it spent on these programs in fiscal 2015. (CNSNews.com used the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calendar to convert the nominal spending amounts reported by CBO into constant 2016 dollars.)

"In the three years since the Obamacare exchanges opened at the beginning of fiscal 2014, net spending on major health care programs has increased by $216,590,000,000, climbing from $795,210,000,000 in fiscal 2013 (the last fiscal year before the exchanges opened) to the record $1,011,800,000 of fiscal 2016.

"That is an increase of about 27.2 percent.

"According to CBO, spending on major health care programs consists “of spending for Medicare (net of premiums and other offsetting receipts), Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program as well as outlays to subsidize health insurance purchased through the marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act and related spending.”

"Under the Obamacare law, people who buy insurance through the government exchanges can receive a subsidy for the premiums they pay if their household income is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level."

The following chart is from Jeffrey's report, and tracks 'mandatory' federal healthcare spending:

 

Jeffrey reports many more details, and concludes by pointing out, "From fiscal 1969 to fiscal 2016, net spending on major health care programs rose from 0.8 percent of GDP to 5.5 percent, according to CBO. From 2008 to 2016, it rose from 4.0 percent to 5.5 percent."

Is all of this spending for healthcare sustainable? Not any more sustainable than any other of the so-called federal entitlement programs, of course. Do you know what your representatives in Congress are doing to bring federal entitlement programs under control? Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives about the need to bring federal healthcare programs under control. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

May 06, 2017

So You Say You Want 'Single Payer' Health Care

At Washington Free Beacon today, Natalie Johnson writes about a Veterans Affairs Inspector General report. Her lede says, "More than 100 veterans died while waiting for care at a Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles, Calif., over a nine-month span ending in August 2015, according to a new government report."

Johnson went on to report:

"The VA Office of Inspector General found in a recent healthcare inspection that 225 veterans at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System facility died with open or pending consults between Oct. 1, 2015 and Aug. 9, 2015. Nearly half—117—of those patients died while experiencing delays in receiving care.

"The inspector general reported that 43 percent of the 371 consults scheduled for patients who ended up dying were not timely because of a failure by VA employees to follow proper procedure. The report was unable to substantiate claims that patients died as a result of the delayed consults.

"Concerned Veterans for America, a D.C.-based nonprofit, cited the OIG findings as evidence that problems persist at the Department of Veterans Affairs despite a series of legislative reforms implemented after the 2014 wait time scandal in Phoenix, Ariz.

"VA negligence can be a matter of life or death," CVA policy director Dan Caldwell said in a statement Thursday. "While the VA wait scandal received the most attention a few years ago, the reality is that Congress hasn’t done anything to change the toxic culture at the VA and we can’t be sure that veterans still aren’t dying waiting for care."

"Caldwell told the Washington Free Beacon that it's important to recognize the OIG investigation covers a period that occurred two years ago, suggesting that changes have since been implemented. He said the report reinforces findings that wait list manipulation took place at VA facilities nationwide and was not isolated to a handful of hospitals, as initially suspected."

She concluded by pointing out "(t)he House passed legislation in March that would expedite the process of firing VA employees who have put the lives of veterans at risk." In addition, the VA Secretary "backed the legislation after facing difficulty firing a Houston-based VA employee who was caught watching pornography while with a patient." And although Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) "introduced the bill in the Senate . . . the chamber has yet to vote on the legislation."

Johnson embeds links to pieces of legislation. In the House of Representatives, H.R. 1259 -- VA Accountability First Act of 2017 -- was sponsored by Rep. David Roe (R-Tennessee), and was accompanied by House Report 115-34.

There were four Roll Call votes in the House on March 16, 2017. Two amendments failed as did a vote to recommit. The bill passed 237-178, primarily, but not totally, along party lines (Roll Call 168). Unfortunately, Arlington County's representative, Don Beyer, did not vote on all four actions.

The bill was received in the Senate on March 21, and was referred to the Committee on Veterans Affairs. Neither of Virginia's two senators are members of this committee.

Should taxpayers worry about a single-payer healthcare system? After all, there is no purer form of single-payer than the Veterans Affairs hospital system. So it was disconcerting this week to hear President Trump praise the Australian government-run health-care system, which the Washington Post described as "essentially a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system that is available to everyone." Even more disconcerting was learning Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer "predict that in less than seven years, we will be in a single-payer system," according to Townhall.com.

Do you know why Rep. Beyer did not vote on H.R. 1259? Do you know the positions of Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on H.R. 1259? Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives about the need to be able to hold VA officials accountable. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

May 05, 2017

Record 151.1 Million Employed in April; Rate Dips to 4.4%

According to CNS News' Susan Jones this morning. " The number of employed Americans set a third straight monthly record in April, increasing by 156,000 to 153,156,000; and the nation's unemployment rate dropped a tenth of a point to 4.4 percent."

Jones continued her reporting, writing:

"On the negative side, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said the labor force participation rate dropped a tenth of a point in April; and the number of Americans NOT in the labor force increased for the second straight month to 94,375,000, compared with 94,213,000 in March.

"The numbers are important: People who are employed have Social Security and other payroll taxes deducted from their paychecks, and those taxes help to support many other people who do not work for various reasons and who may receive taxpayer-funded entitlements or benefits.

"The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the economy added 211,000 jobs last month, a much stronger showing than the 98,000 jobs added in March.

"The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for February was revised up from 219,000 jobs added to +232,000; but the change for March was revised down, from a gain of 98,000 jobs to a gain of only 79,000. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged 174,000, BLS said.

"In April, the nation’s civilian noninstitutionalized population, consisting of all people age 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached 254,588,000. Of those, 160,213,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

"The 160,213,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 62.9 percent of the 254,588,000 civilian noninstitutionalized population."

Jones also reported, "The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.5 million in April and accounted for 22.6% of the unemployed."  She also wrote there are 23 metropolitan areas with jobless rates of less than 3.0% while 11 areas had rates of at least 10.0%.

Do you know what your Congressional representatives have done to improve  the economy and create jobs? Growls readers are urged to take a few minutes to tell your Congressional representatives about the need for tax reform, tax simplification, and job creation. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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

May 04, 2017

Virginia Ranks 8th in Reliance on Individual Income Tax

 On Sunday, we growled after learning that Virginia ranked 42nd in its reliance on the sales tax, based upon a ranking by the Tax Foundation.

Now we learn that Virginia ranks 8th in its relying on the individual income tax. According to Morgan Scarboro, in a blog post at the Tax Foundation's Tax Policy blog:

"Individual income taxes are a major source of state and local government tax revenue, accounting for 22.9 percent of collections, the third largest category. Forty-one states tax wage and salary income, while two states – New Hampshire and Tennessee – exclusively tax dividend and interest income. (Tennessee is currently phasing this tax out and will not levy any income tax by 2022.) Seven states levy no individual income tax at all.

"Of the forty-one states that levy a traditional individual income tax, North Dakota relies the least heavily on its income tax, at 6.9 percent. The top marginal tax rate maxes out at 2.9 percent in the state. Its revenue is also bolstered by strong severance tax collections, which reduces the share of revenue that comes from individual income taxes. Louisiana follows North Dakota, relying on income taxes for 15.2 percent of its state and local revenue."

Thinking about moving to Maryland? Here's something to think about first, though. According to Scarboro, "Only seventeen states also levy a local income tax, with effective rates ranging from 1.47 to 0.01 percent. Maryland has the highest effective local income tax rate at 1.47 percent. Local income taxes can quickly increase the total tax rate for both individual income taxpayers and businesses that file through the individual income tax code." (emphasis added)

If you're interested in how Virginia relies on other taxes, check out the embedded links at the bottom of the Tax Foundation's blog post.

The Tax Foundation map below shows "individual income tax collections as a percent of total state and local tax collections" for FY 2014.

Growls readers who believe Virginia should rely less on the individual income tax should take a few minutes to write to Governor McAuliffe. Click-on the following link:

Growls readers should also consider writing to their state legislators. The following legislators represent 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 Levine). 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.

May 03, 2017

A Thought about 'Tax Cuts for the Rich'

"One of the painful realities of our times is how long a political lie can survive, even after having been disproved years ago, or even generations ago.

"A classic example is the phrase “tax cuts for the rich,” which is loudly proclaimed by opponents, whenever there is a proposal to reduce tax rates. The current proposal to reduce federal tax rates has revived this phrase, which was disproved by facts, as far back as the 1920s — and by now should be called “tax lies for the gullible.”

"How is the claim of “tax cuts for the rich” false? Let me count the ways. More important, you can easily check out the facts for yourself with a simple visit to your local public library or, for those more computer-minded, on the Internet.

"One of the key arguments of those who oppose what they call “tax cuts for the rich” is that the Reagan administration tax cuts led to huge federal government deficits, contrary to “supply side economics” which said that lower tax rates would lead to higher tax revenues.

"This reduces the whole issue to a question about facts — and the hard facts are available in many places, including a local public library or on the Internet.

"The hardest of these hard facts is that the revenues collected from federal income taxes during every year of the Reagan administration were higher than the revenues collected from federal income taxes during any year of any previous administration.

"How can that be? Because tax RATES and tax REVENUES are two different things. Tax rates and tax revenues can move in either the same direction or in opposite directions, depending on how the economy responds.

"But why should you take my word for it that federal income tax revenues were higher than before during the Reagan administration? Check it out."

~ Thomas Sowell

Source: his May 1, 2017 column, "'Tax Cuts for the Rich'?," at American Spectator.

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Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow on public policy at the Hoover Institution. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics at the University of Chicago. Visit his website to view his books and many other interests.

May 02, 2017

Will Aquasphere Get Built Because of Energy Efficiemcy?

In an online story today at Arlington Sun Gazette, Scott McCaffrey writes, "Delays in construction of the planned Long Bridge Park aquatics center could mean the project will be able to incorporate more energy-efficient design at a lower cost, Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette believes."

McCaffrey went on to write:

“The whole country, in terms of energy-efficiency, is further along than it was two or three or five years ago, so hopefully we will benefit from that,” Fisette said as County Manager Mark Schwartz announced a new timetable that could see a downsized aquatics center completed by 2021.

"The desire of some county leaders, including Fisette, to incorporate cutting-edge efficiency efforts into the design of the aquatics center helped push costs beyond expectation, leading then-County Manager Barbara Donnellan to put the project on hold in 2014.

"Last year, current County Manager Mark Schwartz returned with a downscaled plan, designed to allow construction with funds on hand covering the estimated cost of between $63 million and $67.5 million."

Your humble scribe was tempted to growl on another topic, but decided to document why the Aquatics Center was delayed, and now why it may eventually get built. The reasons are one and the same, i.e., the desire by some of Arlington County's panjandrums to be on the bleeding edge of the nation's energy-efficiency curve -- with advocates hoping the price of the energy-efficiency efforts have dropped fast enough to make those efforts cheap enough.

In case readers are wondering, we've started using the term Aquasphere to honor the ill-fated arts facility, the Artisphere, that consumed taxpayer dollars until county management decided they couldn't squeeze that turnip any more.

May 01, 2017

Gallup Says Americans More Positive About Taxes This Year

According to a Gallup poll conducted last month, April 5-9, "With the deadline to file federal income taxes looming, 61% of U.S. adults regard the income tax they have to pay as fair, the most positive sentiment since 2009. A year ago, 50% held this view, which is lower than all but one other reading in Gallup's trend."

The story highlights were:

  • 61% say their federal income tax is fair, the most since 2009
  • 51% say their taxes are too high, down from 57% last year
  • All party groups are more likely than in 2016 to say taxes are fair

Gallup provided additional detail based upon party affiliation:

"Americans' perceptions of the fairness of their taxes have varied over the years, tending to be lower in years when a Democratic president was in office and higher in years when there was a Republican president. About 50% of Americans thought their taxes were fair in the late 1990s when President Bill Clinton was in office and in early 2001 before the first round of income tax cuts passed in President George W. Bush's administration.

"Between 2003 -- the year Bush passed a second round of tax cuts -- and the end of his presidency, at least six in 10 Americans believed their taxes were fair. In 2009, Barack Obama's first year as president, 61% of Americans still said their taxes were fair, but in subsequent years the figure stayed below 60%. From 2013 -- after Obama and Congress agreed to let Bush's tax cuts expire for higher-income earners -- through the end of Obama's presidential term, an average of 54% of Americans believed their taxes were fair.

"Now that Republican Donald Trump is in office, the percentage saying their taxes are fair is back above 60%.

"Republicans are mostly responsible for the variation in perceived income tax fairness over time. Less than half (46%) of Republicans, on average, said their taxes were fair when Clinton and Obama were in office, compared with majorities averaging 60% during the Bush and Trump administrations. Consistent majorities of Democrats have thought their taxes were fair, although more held this view under Obama than under Bush. An average of 60% of Democrats have said taxes were fair under Republican presidents compared with 64% under Democratic presidents. Independents' views also vary modestly when Democratic (54%) or Republican (58%) presidents are in office."

The chart below shows "Republicans, Independents More Likely to Say Taxes Fair This Year."

 

Gallup also said that fewer respondents said taxes are too high, reporting:

"A separate question in the survey asks Americans if the amount of federal income tax they pay is too high, about right or too low. Currently, 51% describe the amount of federal tax they have to pay as "too high," down from 57% last year but similar to what it was from 2003-2015. Forty-two percent now say their taxes are "about right," with only 4% saying they are "too low."

"Gallup first asked this question of national adults in 1956. Before 2003, it was not uncommon for 60% or more of Americans to say their taxes were too high, with an average of 59% expressing this view between 1956 and 2001."

Take a few minutes to scan the entire Gallup report on Americans' opinions about their taxes.

Since it is likely that tax reform will be taken up by Congress this year, Growls readers concerned about America's burdensome taxes are urged to make their views about taxes known to their members of Congress. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. 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

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