March 26, 2015

CAGW Names March 2015 Porker of the Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 25, 2015

If You Pay Capital Gains Taxes

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

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

Here's how Pomerleau explains it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 22, 2015

Federal Government's Budget Problem in 1 Chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 21, 2015

A Thought on Taxation

"the larger the percentage of the national income taken by taxes the greater the deterrent to private production and employment. When the total tax burden grows beyond a bearable size, the problem of devising taxes that will not discourage and disrupt production becomes insoluble.”

~ Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest & Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics


March 20, 2015

Arlington County Officials May Scale-Back a Vanity Project

The Arlington County Taxpayers Association (ACTA) has had the $80 million Long Branch Bridge Park aquatics center in its sights for some time now. Most recently, we mentioned it when we growled about Arlington County profligacy on December 31, 2014.

Consequently, we were surprised to read the online Arlington Sun Gazette story on Wednesday that said "Arlington officials to take another, scaled-back shot at aquatics center." According to Scott McCaffrey:

"With $64 million in cash to work with, Arlington officials on March 17 restarted planning efforts for the next phase of Long Bridge Park following a 15-month time-out.

“It would be irresponsible not to give it one more shot,” said County Manager Barbara Donnellan, who asked for and received County Board approval to move forward on a project that she put on hold in January 2014, when cost estimates for the proposed aquatics/fitness facility proved to be a budget-buster.

"Arlington officials then cast their lot with those hoping to land the D.C. region as site of the 2024 Summer Olympics, hoping to leverage that possibility to build the pool facility. But the local area didn’t even make the cut as the U.S. finalist, a role that was won by Boston.

"As a result, county officials now plan to reconstitute the park’s existing design committee into a broader task force, expand its membership and have it work with staff to come back with a viable plan by next January.

"The March 17 action breathes new life into the multi-stage development of the park, located at the north end of Crystal City. Sports fields, parking and other amenities already are in place.

McCaffrey provides additional details, which you can read here. For example, amount of remaining bond funds, a cap on the cost of the aquatics center, and a question by Board member John Vihstadt who asked whether the Parks and Recreation Department would be able to manage the project.

Growls readers concerned about the profligacy of the Arlington County Board should communicate those concerns to the Arlington County Board. Just click-on the link below:

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

And tell them ACTA sent you.

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