How Taxes Limit American Opportunity

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High tax rates mean that only two thirds of the money you earn ends up in your pocket, Heritage Foundation chief economist Stephen Moore reports in the new Index of Culture and Opportunity:

Americans effectively work one day a week to pay federal taxes and the other four days to pay their bills and take care of their families. Taking into account state and local taxes, almost one in three dollars of a worker’s earnings go to the tax collector.

The government also imposes an “invisible tax of lost productivity and output” since “the federal tax code punishes saving, investment and business creation.”

And it will only get worse, according to Moore: “Tax burdens are likely to continue climbing if we do not rein in our rapidly growing debt. Without government spending reductions, taxes will likely rise.”

Be sure to read Heritage’s entire Index of Culture and Opportunity. The Index of Culture and Opportunity tracks key social and economic indicators to determine whether important indicators of opportunity in America are on the right track.

Does this crushing tax burden worry you?

Welfare Spending Is Up. This Has Real Consequences.

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welfareWelfare spending has significantly increased over the last decade, according to Heritage’s new Index of Culture and Opportunity.

This has real consequences, encouraging a culture of dependence. But the welfare reforms of the 1990s–guided by Heritage research–offer a way forward, New York University’s Lawrence Mead explains in the Index:

In light of welfare reform, the best hope to reaffirm a culture of achievement is to combine “help and hassle”: Assist the needy but also demand that they do more to help themselves. Recent education and training programs are increasingly telling their clients that they must meet accepted standards and go to work in available jobs. . .

By promoting work where possible, we can promote the self-reliant qualities needed to make marriage and family possible. Stronger workers can be stronger parents, able to prepare the next generation to flourish in a free society.

Be sure to read Heritage’s entire Index of Culture and Opportunity. The Index of Culture and Opportunity tracks key social and economic indicators to determine whether important indicators of opportunity in America are on the right track.

The Good News About the U.S. Abortion Rate

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The good news about the abortion rate in America is that it’s declining.

The most significant drop was from 2001 to 2011, reports Charles Donovan in Heritage’s new Index of Culture and Opportunity. “The overall direction of U.S. abortion practice is clear. A closer look at individual states that have consistent data confirms this trend,” he writes.

While the abortion rate is on the decline, there is more that needs to be done.

Be sure to read Heritage’s entire Index of Culture and Opportunity. The Index of Culture and Opportunity tracks key social and economic indicators to determine whether important indicators of opportunity in America are on the right track.

College Loan Forgiveness Is Not the Answer to High Student Loan Debt

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In Heritage Work

College loan debt is at an all-time high. To address this problem, President Obama recently used executive action to extend income-based loan repayment options to millions more students. The program caps monthly payments and completely forgives student loans after as little as 10 years.

Sounds great, right? Not so fast. Loans have to be repaid by someone. And that someone is you.

Heritage Foundation education expert Lindsey Burke explains: Continue Reading »

You’re Paying the High Price of the Sugar Program While Special Interests Benefit

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Policies set by the Department of Agriculture inflate the price of sugar, benefitting only a handful of sugar producers and processors. While the sugar cartel receives no direct subsidies, Americans still pick up the tab in the form of higher sugar costs.

The sugar program “costs consumers an estimated $3.5 billion annually and has reduced employment by more than 127,000 jobs since 1997,” Mario Loyola explains in a new Heritage Foundation report:

Eliminating the sugar program would dramatically lower America’s food bill, not just for sugar, but for all foods that contain sugar. Indeed, lowering the wholesale costs for makers of sugar-containing products would make these secondary producers globally competitive again, leading to an export boom for their products with positive consequences both at home and abroad.

He suggests three steps to dismantle the government-created cartel and save Americans money:

  • Substantially reform the sugar program or eliminate it altogether;
  • Require the Congressional Budget Office to assess the economic costs and benefits of all price-support programs; and
  • Change all programs that effectuate a forced transfer, like the sugar program does, to a form of transparent subsidy.

Do you think the government should protect special interests and pass on the costs to consumers like you?

The FDA Is Trying to Control Your Diet. Here’s Why That’s a Bad Idea

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In Heritage Work

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Photo: Wikimedia/Himgspendra

The Food and Drug Administration is trying to remove trans fat from our nation’s diet, even though there’s no evidence that trans fats are harmful at Americans’ current low intake levels.

Moreover, it is clear the FDA is trying to expand its reach in unprecedented ways, Heritage Foundation expert Daren Bakst explains:

The FDA would be taking the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic (FD&C) Act of 1938 into novel areas that are unrelated to the food safety issues that the law is designed to regulate. It would do so by regulating nutrition and diet through limiting food choices. Thus, the agency is trying to conflate nutritional and dietary well-being with “safety.” This action is extreme and unwarranted.

Unhealthy is not the same as unsafe,” Bakst explains. “When it comes to diet, chronic diseases may be caused by numerous factors that could have nothing to do with a specific food ingredient.”

Do you think the government should have the power to tell us what we may and may not eat?

How Heritage Is Leading the Way on Ukraine, Israel, and Illegal Immigration

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In Heritage Work

President Obama’s misguided leadership on the world stage is taking a very real toll. And the Heritage Foundation is educating lawmakers and the American people on the facts.

Just yesterday, Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was shot down by a missile over Eastern Ukraine. The White House suspects that Russian rebels–supplied by Vladimir Putin’s government despite the administration’s “reset”–shot down the plane. To help guide the debate over next steps, Heritage experts posted an analysis of the events and what may have caused them on The Daily Signal. Heritage’s Peter Brookes discussed the outrageous incident on CNBC, and other experts are scheduled to appear this weekend on other national TV outlets.

In Israel, Hamas militants have launched another series of indiscriminate missile attacks on Israeli civilians. Israel has responded with targeted attacks on Hamas militants. Heritage’s Steve Bucci explains the moral difference between Hamas and Israel. Michaela Dodge answers your questions about the Iron Dome program that defends Israel from Hamas rockets. And James Phillips warns that “the eruption of the third Gaza war since 2008 is yet another manifestation of the growing threat posed by Islamist militants within an increasingly unstable Middle East. “

Closer to home, our borders are being assaulted by illegal immigrants. The most recent wave of young people from Latin America appears directly inspired by President Obama’s unilateral promise of amnesty to minors. Immigration is one of The Heritage Foundation’s priority issues, and experts have been working to expose the flaws in the administration’s plans and to propose a conservative alternative that secures the border and upholds the rule of law.

Heritage Vice President James Carafano points out that only Heritage is able to provide this kind of in-depth analysis on so many issues at once. “No other think tank is handling all these issues at the depth we are on the Hill and the media all at the same time,” he said.

Do you think these policy events can be linked to the Obama administration’s policies?

Government Union Spending Does Not Reflect Member Priorities, Sherk Tells Pennsylvania Lawmakers

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In Heritage Work

Government union political spending reflects the political views of union bosses, not those of members, Heritage Foundation expert James Sherk’s told members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

During testimony about a state proposal to protect government workers and reduce the power of union bosses, Sherk explained:

Government unions spend their members’ mandatory dues heavily on political causes that the union leadership supports. They do so without asking their members’ permission, and irrespective of the preferences of their membership. Taxpayers subsidize government union political fundraising through the publicly funded payroll system. The government automatically takes union dues out of government employees’ paychecks. This system privileges union bosses and their priorities at the expense of union members and taxpayers who hold different views. . . .

When unions must ask workers for permission to spend their dues on political causes, political spending drops dramatically. My research shows that union political spending falls by roughly half after states adopt paycheck-protection laws. Union bosses spend dues to prop up their own power instead of serving their membership.

Read more Heritage research on unions.

Do you think union members should have a say in where their dues are spent?

What You Need to Know About the Smarter Sentencing Act

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In Heritage Work

Drug dealing is harmful to society and threatens public safety. Unfortunately, current federal sentencing guidelines have led to some undesirable outcomes.

Heritage Foundation experts has produced a fact sheet with everything you need to know about the proposed Smarter Sentencing Act.

Reforms in the Smarter Sentencing Act would sentence nonviolent criminals more effectively, while actually creating harsher sentencing for sexual assault offenses and domestic violence offenses.

How would you address criminal sentencing?

The Ex-Im Bank Is ‘Primarily a Marriage Between Big Government and a Few Big Businesses’

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In Heritage Work

“Note the ‘unknown’ section. This isn’t a fluke: Ex-Im routinely loses track of whom they’ve been helping.” -Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint

Ending the Export-Import Bank is important, Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint writes:

Ex-Im is rife with corruption, doesn’t promote competition, costs taxpayers billions of dollars and threatens American jobs.  It’s all about politically connected big businesses getting bigger with help from Uncle Sam. It’s not fair, not necessary, and shouldn’t be a hard decision for Congress.

The Export-Import Bank will end in September if Congress does not reauthorize the program. Liberals like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are pushing hard to extend it.

Read more of Heritage’s research on the Ex-Im Bank here.

Do you think Congress should continue the Export-Import Bank or allow it to end?

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