Phil Kerpen on November 29, 2018 | Fix the Tax Code

By Phil Kerpen

President Trump recently tweeted that he wanted to end subsidies for General Motors "including for electric cars." In this case the president's personal pique aligns with an opportunity to advance good public policy.  One of most significant subsidies from which GM benefits – the $7500 tax credit for electric car buyers – is already scheduled to phase out as GM passes the 200,000 vehicle cap on the full credit, entering a one-year phase-out before the subsidy ends completely.  It's a rare circumstance in which a government program could actually end just by Congress doing what it specializes in – doing nothing.

Unfortunately, while the House version of tax extenders leaves the cap in place, the Senate has been discussing lifting the cap and allowing subsidies to keep flowing to GM and Tesla, which has already reached the phase out.  The president should make clear he would veto any legislation to lift the cap.

Democrats should support letting the credit phase out because it is a tax break for the rich.  The Pacific Research Institute looked at the most recent IRS data and found that more than half of the electric car buyers claiming the credit make more than $200,000 per year and nearly 80 percent make more than $100,000. Just 1 percent make $50,000 or less.

They conclude: "the subsidization of EVs has some reverse Robin Hood impacts where tax dollars are taken from all households (including lower-income households) and given to wealthier households."

There is also a geographic dimension to the wealth redistribution.  The most recent industry data shows that half of all electric vehicles sold in the United States were sold in California, which has its own lavish subsidies at the state level.  In August, the most recent month with data available, 53 percent of electric vehicle sales were in California.

A September 2018 NERA Economic Consulting study looked at the economic impact of eliminating the cap, as some in the Senate have proposed and for which Tesla and General Motors have been heavily lobbying.

They found that the costs of lifting the cap outweigh the benefits, because lower gasoline costs are more than offset by the direct and indirect costs of subsidized EV infrastructure.  The study finds total household income falling as a consequence of lifting the cap by $7 billion in 2020 and $12 billion in 2035, which is about $50 to $70 per household in lost income every year.

That's a cost of over $50 every year to middle-income middle-Americans to pay for subsidies for rich people in California.

As Tom Pyle recently explained in The Hill, the subsidy for electric vehicles was always meant to be temporary.

Orrin Hatch, the original sponsor of the bill, explained the logic behind the cap in 2007:

"I want to emphasize that like the tax credits available under current law for hybrid electric vehicles, the tax incentives in the FREEDOM Act are temporary. They are needed in order to help...

Jonathan Decker on November 26, 2018 | End Regulatory Tyranny

By Jon Decker

One of the great underreported stories of the midterm election was the decisive defeat handed to liberal activists wishing to enact grocery taxes in Washington State.

Voters in Washington – where statewide elections are typically dominated by Seattle-area liberals  – approved a ballot measure that would ban local municipalities from enacting taxes on processed foods and beverages in a near-landslide 56 percent to 44 percent decision.

To make things more interesting, rather than accept the fact that Washington residents rejected the regressive nanny-state tax hike, liberals are in denial.

They are bizarrely claiming this amounted to a "deceptive ballot initiative" that was "fundamentally misleading" and "reminiscent of the tobacco industry’s playbook".

Here is the actual text of the ballot initiative that liberals are calling "deceptive":

"This measure would prohibit new or increased local taxes, fees, or assessments on raw or processed foods or beverages (with exceptions), or ingredients thereof, unless effective by January 15, 2018, or generally applicable.

Should this measure be enacted into law?"

As the text makes blindingly obvious, a "yes" vote banned local grocery taxes.

The sanctimonious outrage displayed by leftwing activists is both comical and revealing. Surely voters were too dumb to understand what this actually meant!  It certainly couldn't mean that Washington residents just didn't want to pay more for the food or beverages they enjoy, or experience the sort of sticker shock that has taken place in Seattle.

The left seems to be having a hard time accepting their recent defeats, statewide in Washington or in Santa Fe, New Mexico  – another location not generally known as a bastion of free market thought.

For members of the food police grocery taxes are necessary because people aren't smart enough to choose what groceries they buy, as Mike Bloomberg himself has helpfully explained.

And when voters decide at the ballot box to ban such taxes, it must be because those voters are not smart enough to read. 

Regardless of how the Michael Bloombergs of the world attempt to spin this embarrassing ballot defeat, Washington and Sante Fe's ballot initiatives make clear that not everyone buys into liberals' self-righteous attitude towards the American consumer.

Sorry tax hikers.

Photo Credit: lyzadanger ...

Phil Kerpen on November 15, 2018 |

By Phil Kerpen

President Trump has hundreds of unfilled presidentially appointed positions because Democrats have stalled the nominations process out as much as their diminished power in the post-nuclear Senate has allowed.  But it is the Republican majority that has placed a total blockade on the usual safety valve for temporary appointments – the recess appointment power – by refusing to go on recess for the last two years.  And with Democrats set to take the House and be in position to deny the Senate consent to recess starting January 3, there is a real possibility that President Trump will go an entire presidential term without being able to make recess appointments.

It has been nearly eight years since the United States Senate officially recessed – a streak aided by the practice of holding so-called pro forma sessions every three days throughout every adjournment.  Those sessions – which consist of nothing but gaveling in and out and where, by unanimous consent, no business is conducted – serve a single purpose: to deny the president of the United States the recess appointment power, which is a constitutionally authorized power to temporarily install nominees to executive and judicial posts, temporarily, without Senate advice and consent, during recesses.

President Bill Clinton used the recess appointment power 139 times, including 96 full-time positions.  President George W. Bush used it 171 times, including 99 full-time positions.  But recess appointments under Bush screeched to a halt in his final two years in office, after Democrats took control of the Senate and, for the first time, implemented pro forma sessions to avoid an official recess.

In Obama's first two years, with Democrats in control of Congress, recesses were back and he made 28 recess appointments, all to full-time positions, in his first two years.  Then Republicans won the House of Representatives and withheld consent from the Senate to recess, forcing the pro forma sessions to come back.  They continued through the last six years of Obama's presidency, though he attempted to disregard them and make recess appointments anyway in 2012, which were struck down unanimously by the Supreme Court in NLRB v. Noel Canning.

The pro forma gambit is legally valid, and therefore the president cannot make recess appointments unless the Congress decides to officially recess, which hadn't happened since 2010.

You might reasonably expect no president will ever get recess appointments again except when the same party controls the House, Senate, and president.  But for the last...

Jonathan Decker on October 23, 2018 | Reform Health Care Right

By Jon Decker

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar recently unveiled a new proposal requiring that a drug's 'sticker price' be listed in television commercials. While promoting greater transparency in the prescription market is a noble goal, Secretary Azar's proposal unfortunately misses the mark on how to best disclose drug prices to consumers. Even more worrisome, Azar's proposal carries the risk of patients unnecessarily forgoing vital medications due to confusion resulting from his hasty rulemaking.

The 'sticker price' that Secretary Azar wants to force all drug manufacturers to display in advertisements is often not indicative of how much a medication actually costs. This is because the pharmaceutical industry is able to take advantage of rebates to lower the costs of medication, and consumers may be able to lower the price even further through discount programs and/or by using their health insurance policy.

Since the 'sticker price' is not reflective of what patients actually pay, why confuse consumers by showing them misleading price info? Doing so would be similar to watching a commercial for a $60,000 Ford, only to discover at the dealership that the car actually costs $30,000.

Now here is where the stakes get higher. Imagine if someone saw that ad for a $60,000 Ford and thought "it's way too expensive". Most likely, they would never go to the dealership to see what price they could get for the car in the first place. Applying this to drug costs, Secretary Azar's proposal could dissuade patients from asking about a certain type of medication because they believe the out-of-pocket costs will be too high. This could prevent patients from accessing medicine they need.

Consumers would appreciate greater transparency on the cost of medications; However, Secretary Azar's proposal would not provide the most accurate information for patients to make an informed decision. A better proposal would give patients the full context when disclosing the costs of a drug – including the potential for savings. If Secretary Azar follows this path instead, his plan will be just what the doctor ordered.

Phil Kerpen on October 11, 2018 | Reform Health Care Right

By Phil Kerpen

When Republicans vote against coverage expansions, that's the headline.  So let's give Senate Democrats the same treatment: they just voted to take away insurance coverage from millions of Americans.

I'll explain.

Last summer, Republicans failed to deliver on their longstanding promise to repeal Obamacare due to Senator John McCain's dramatic last minute thumbs down.  They failed again in the fall, when the Graham-Cassidy bill to block grant health care dollars to the states was pulled from the floor because ailing Senator Thad Cochran was stuck in a Mississippi hospital.

Conservative activists were disappointed and dispirited, liberal partisans were jubilant, and most of America just figured we would keep muddling on with the dysfunctional Obamacare apparatus still in place.

But late last year Congress struck a major blow to the heart of Obamacare.  The individual mandate penalty tax that punishes Americans for not having Obamacare-compliant coverage was repealed in the Trump tax cut bill.

That made Obamacare voluntary. But there was a problem. There were very few non-Obamacare plans available, because a 2016 Obama regulation had deliberately crippled them.

That 2016 Obama regulation slashed the duration of Obamacare-exempt so-called "short-term, limited duration plans" from one year to three months and banned them from being renewable.

Why did Obama do it?

Because people were flocking to these short-term plans, even though at that time they would have to pay both their premiums and the individual mandate penalty tax for choosing a non-Obamacare plan.

The plans were that much cheaper and better than the junky Obamacare plans, with sky-high premiums and deductibles and narrow provider networks that exclude the best hospitals.

And now, thanks to a directive from President Trump to rescind the 2016 Obama rule, they are back.  And now there's no penalty tax for being in a non-Obamacare plan!

As of October 2, 2018, non-Obamacare plans are legal again and uncrippled.  They can be written for up to 364 days at a time, renewed for up to three years, and can now be paired with a premium guarantee product to lock in a successor policy after three years without any risk of a premium increase because you get sick.

If you like your non-Obamacare plan you can keep it, without paying more, even if you get sick.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates Trump's deregulation will increase overall insurance coverage by about a million people by 2023.  Other estimates are higher, with the Center for Health and Economy projecting an overall coverage increase of 2.3 million by 2020 and even the liberal Urban Institute estimating 1.7 million more Americans insured by 2019.

So who would say no to consumers having more choices, with lower premiums, guaranteed renewability without medical underwriting, and potentially better provider networks?

Who would say no to up to two million people presently uninsured getting coverage because they'll be able to afford these new options?

Democrats. Democrats who want to force everyone into Obamacare's one-size-fits-all approach.

Every single Senate Democrat voted for Tammy Baldwin's...