A Firsthand Account of What’s Going on at the Border with Mexico


In Heritage Work

The federal government protects the Southern Yellow Bat at the border with Mexico. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Keeping the border secure is essential to protecting America and its citizens. So why is it so difficult?

The Heritage Foundation’s Genevieve Wood recent visited to McAllen, Texas, on the border with Mexico, to witness the problems first hand.

One problem is that the federal government is not doing enough to halt the recent influx of illegal immigrants, according to border control officers. Texas has decided to take matters into its own hands by allotting more resources to catch the illegal crossers.

But the problems don’t stop there.

Many border areas in South Texas are part of national wildlife refuge areas, and many illegal immigrants cross the border there. These areas — meant to protect small mammals like bats and even beetles “essential for plant pollination” – severely limit border agents’ ability to even patrol the area for human traffickers and drug smugglers.

In fact, because the land spanning the Rio Grande is protected, border patrol cars are not allowed to leave designated dirt roads. Instead, agents are told to go after the drug smugglers on foot or to follow the road to try and catch up.

Do you think the federal government should protect animals like the Yellow Southern Bat instead of protecting the border?

5 Things You Need to Know About New Taxes on Online Services


In Heritage Work

Photo: Newscom

On October 31, a federal moratorium on Internet service taxes will expire, allowing state and local governments to tax online access and other services that you use and enjoy every day.

In a new report, Heritage Foundation expert James Gattuso explains how this change will affect you. Below are five things you need to know about this issue.

  1. The United States has had a moratorium on state Internet taxation since 1998. This ban includes state surcharges on Internet service and state taxes on specific internet services such as email or instant messaging.  It also bans “bit” taxes based on internet usage.
  2. This Internet tax ban does not cover Internet sales tax. That issue involves the power of state tax collectors to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on their behalf, which is an entirely separate debate.  As Gattuso notes, “While not prohibited by Congress’s Internet tax moratorium, such mandates have been properly limited by the courts.”
  3. H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, would permanently ban these taxes. This bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on June 18th and will soon go to the House floor.
  4. 11 of the 25 businesses contributing the most to the U.S. economy are Internet-related.  With Internet taxes, we risk threatening this sector’s growth.  Internet-related business is one of the few sectors thriving today.  With new taxes, subscribership to internet services may fall, especially among low-income consumers.  In fact, Gattuso notes that if state taxes average five percent, these services could lose 10 million to 30 million subscribers.
  5. The tax ban is fully consistent with the principles of federalism. “The Internet, by its nature, is an interstate network,” Gattuso observes. “The effects of Internet tax policy in one state are borne not just by that state’s citizens, but by citizens of other states.”

Read more about how this will affect you here.

Do you think we should permanently ban states from taxing the Internet?  Tell us in the comments.

Unanimous Supreme Court Rules Against the Obama Administration’s Unconstitutional Power Grab


In Heritage Work

The Supreme Court unanimously struck down as unconstitutional the Obama administration’s “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, which were conducted while the Senate was formally in session.

The “decision marks the 12th time the Supreme Court unanimously ruled against the Obama administration on the issue of executive power,” Heritage Foundation legal expert Elizabeth Slattery explains.

The Constitution allows the President to make appointments during a Senate recess. President Obama’s appointments, which bypassed Senate approval, were made during a period when the Senate convened pro-forma sessions every three days. The Supreme Court held that recess appointments can only be made during breaks of “sufficient length.”

Read more about the Recess Appointments Clause in the Heritage Guide to the Constitution.

Do you think President Obama has been abusing his executive powers? 

How Heritage’s Partnership With an Inner-City School Helps Spread Your Conservative Ideas

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In Heritage Work

Denzel and James help to organize YLP brochures.

Washington, DC charter school students Denzel Hilliard (left) and James Stokes (right) are working with Heritage’s Young Leaders Program this summer.

For the last eight years, The Heritage Foundation has sponsored a fellowship for students from the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy in Washington, D.C. to educate them about conservative principles.

This year’s fellows, Denzel Hilliard and James Stokes, Jr. joined other interns in Heritage’s Young Leaders Program for policy briefings with Heritage experts and lectures about America’s First Principles. These lectures were particularly important to Stokes, he said, because they enhanced his education.

The students also worked directly with Heritage policy analysts, who mentored them on their careers, and gave them an opportunity to research and write about a public policy topic of their choice. Hilliard wrote about how free trade strengthens the economy, while Stokes’ article focused on American nuclear policy.

Both students agreed that the Heritage fellowship opened their eyes to new ideas and schools of thought, and they are grateful for the experience they received. Continue Reading »

Why Government Should Cut Red Tape for Small Public Companies

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In Heritage Work

Young, dynamic companies drive most job creation in the country. To launch and grow, these companies need access to capital–yet government regulations often interfere with this critical process.

This is why Heritage Foundation experts urge the Securities and Exchange Commission to cut red tape so small public companies can have better access to markets and investors:

SEC regulations—many of which, however, implement statutory requirements—impose very high costs on companies seeking to access the public securities markets. These costs are prohibitively high for small and medium-sized companies and impede their ability to access the capital needed to grow, innovate, and create jobs. Both Regulation S-K and Regulation S-X need to be revised to reduce these costs.

Have SEC regulations affected your small business?

Your Questions About the Turmoil in Iraq, Answered


In Heritage Work

Heritage Foundation Middle East expert James Phillips sat down with Kelsey Harkness of Heritage’s Daily Signal to give some background on ISIS and the crisis in Iraq:

Daily Signal: First off, who and what is ISIS?

Phillips: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is an al-Qaeda offshoot that seeks to overthrow the governments of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, and establish an Islamic state governed by a harsh and brutal interpretation of Islamic law. Its long-term goals are to launch a jihad (holy war) to drive Western influence out of the Middle East, destroy Israel and become the nucleus of a global Islamic empire.

It is composed of Sunni Muslims drawn to radical Islamist ideology. Most of its members are Iraqi and Syrian Arabs, although it has attracted a wide range of foreign militants, especially Arabs from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt.

D.S.: How long has ISIS been around and why are they just now on the move?

Phillips: The group initially was established in Iraq in 2004 by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Palestinian Islamist extremist born in Jordan, who formerly was one of the estimated 25,000 foreign Muslims who flocked to Afghanistan after 1979 to fight the Soviets. He was a close associate of Osama bin Laden, although he did not formally join al-Qaeda until 2004 when he was recognized as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2006 and his organization was decimated by a U.S.-led counterterrorism campaign. But the group made a comeback in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, which took the pressure off it. Also, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s Shia-dominated government alienated Sunni Iraqis, driving many of them to see ISIS as the lesser evil.

D.S.: So what exactly is ISIS trying to accomplish?

Phillips: ISIS is a violent Islamist extremist group that is determined to impose its harsh totalitarian Islamist ideology on all Muslims, kill off apostates (defined as all Muslims that do not accept its brand of Islam), subjugate all non-Muslims and build a radical Islamic state that will launch an unending jihad until it has created a global Islamic empire. It is a revolutionary movement that uses terrorism to impose its will.

D.S.: What about these reports of ISIS beheading and crucifying their fellow Muslims?

Phillips: ISIS proudly videotapes and broadcasts its brutal treatment of its enemies and those who violate its radical interpretation of Islamic law. It has cited the Koran to justify beheading and crucifixion. Its victims reportedly are usually killed first before being strung up for display on a cross.

Want to know more? Read the rest of the questions and answers on the Daily Signal.

How do you think the Obama administration should respond to the situation in Iraq? Tell us in the comments.

What Does Congress Have Planned for Your Tax Dollars?

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In Heritage Work

The Heritage Foundation is keeping track of your tax dollars in our Appropriations Tracker for fiscal 2015. The government’s budget year begins October 1.

This chart, Heritage’s Michael Sargent explains, “will allow Americans to easily compare the differences between the House, Senate, and President’s proposals and will show them which departments and programs are slated to receive the most funds in 2015.”

Stay up-to-date on Heritage Research about Federal Spending.

Don’t Use Military Service as a Backdoor Amnesty

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In Heritage Work

Immigration policies such as the ENLIST Act are providing a backdoor to instant citizenship and will hurt America, Heritage Foundation expert Cully Stimson argues.

Current policy allows legal permanent residents may enlist in the military, serve honorably, and then apply for expedited citizenship. The proposed law, however, extends this privilege to illegal immigrants.

The ENLIST Act, Stimson explains, “encourages more illegal immigration, flouts the rule of law, and has the potential to harm national security.”

Do you support the ENLIST Act?

The IRS Is Extending Its Influence Abroad

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In Heritage Work

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act goes into effect next month. FATCA was passed in 2010 to crack down on tax evasion, but Heritage Foundation experts Anthony Kim and Curtis Dubay report that the law actually hurts Americans living and working abroad.

“Like another ill-considered piece of legislation enacted that same year (Obamacare),” they explain, “FATCA granted the IRS a new level of intrusiveness into the lives of Americans.”

Instead of growing government, Kim and Dubay recommend a broad tax reform, which would “help curtail tax evasion in a more effective way without resorting to onerous and intrusive regulations such as FATCA.”

What do you think? Should the IRS be able to extend its reach this way?

What the Obama Administration Should Be Doing to Combat Al-Qaeda in Iraq


In Heritage Work

Photo: NewsCom

The resurgence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, can be blamed on the lack of US-Iraqi cooperation, Heritage’s James Phillips reports.

“The abrupt U.S. military exit greatly weakened Iraqi counterterrorism, intelligence gathering, and special-operations capabilities, allowing Al-Qaeda to revive in a more permissive environment,” he argues.

To combat terrorism, Phillips recommends that the Obama administration:

  1. Provide arms and assistance to help Iraq defeat ISIS; and
  2. Press Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reconcile with Iraq’s Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders; and
  3. Normalize relations with Iraq’s Kurdish political parties.

Read more about his recommendations here.

What do you think the Obama administration should do to combat terrorism in Iraq?

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