Here Are Five Things Congress Can Pass Right Now to Boost the Economy


In Heritage Work

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Can the 114th Congress overcome gridlock and enact important economic reforms? Heritage expert Daren Bakst say yes. In a new report, Bakst outlines 26 proposals that should be non-controversial and may already enjoy broad support. Here are five of them:

  1. Balance the budget. Congress has until April 15th to decide on a budget outline for the next ten years. Lawmakers should agree on ways to cut overall spending and debt so the budget balances in 2025.
  2. Make Congress decide on expensive regulations, not bureaucrats. Major rules and regulations costing over $100 million dollars obviously have a big effect on the economy. Unelected bureaucrats in federal agencies can have the final say on these costly regulations. Congress should pass legislation that requires a vote on any major rule proposed by a federal agency to ensure elected lawmakers have a final say.
  3. Keep the Federal Reserve in check. Congress should establish a National Monetary Commission to hold the Federal Reserve accountable. The commission would provide a forum for experts to debate the validity of operations and the appropriate role of the Fed.  In addition, such a Commission could make recommendations to Congress about how to reform the Fed in the future.
  4. Take food stamps out of the farm bill. Whether they’re for or against food stamps, all Congressmen can agree that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program shouldn’t be lumped in with agriculture policies. Yet food stamps are 80 percent of the farm bill’s spending! By separating agricultural appropriations from nutrition assistance, Congress can make it clear where taxpayer funds are going and start reforming pork-barrel farm spending.
  5. Kick-start tax reform by halting the “tax extenders” debate. Lawmakers devote a lot of time to debates over renewing temporary tax provisions known as “tax extenders.” By making these provisions permanent, Congress can get to work on more important tax issues without the distraction of renewing these provisions.

What do you think of these ideas?

An Agreement in Principle with Iran–with No Principles


In Heritage Work

The framework agreement on nuclear weapons with Iran could open the flood gates, Heritage Foundation expert James Phillips explains:

While the administration will spin the agreement as a signal that the Iranians are acting more reasonably, Tehran will see the deal as acceptance in the West of its policies and behavior. There is danger that Iran will be emboldened to escalate its destabilizing behavior in the region, not reduce it. And the more sanctions relief Iran gains, the more cash it will have to finance terrorism and other subversive activities.

We only have to look to the past to see that Iran has a poor track record for keeping its word. Considering its long history of violating nuclear agreements, it’s difficult to accept that Iran won’t cheat. Fool me once…

Ultimately, Phillips says, “the Obama administration made an agreement in principle with an Iranian regime that has no principles, except to expand its power and export its revolution.”

Tell us in the comments: What do you think of the provisional agreement the Obama administration made with Iran?

A Close Call Reminds Us That Terrorism Is Not Just a Foreign Threat


In Heritage Work

Two American citizens were arrested in Chicago last week. One planed to join ISIS in Syria, and the other planned to attack a U.S. military installation.

This is the 64th foiled terrorist attack against the U.S. since 9/11 . What’s especially concerning is that this is the 53rd homegrown Islamist terrorist plot.

Law enforcement and intelligence tools are essential to stopping terrorists before they strike, Heritage Foundation experts David Inserra and Peter Brookes caution:

Until it is able to combat and destroy ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other Islamist extremist groups effectively, the U.S. will remain the target of terrorists inspired by this extreme ideology. The U.S. cannot afford complacency but instead must use intelligence, community outreach, and efforts to defeat ISIS and other terrorists abroad to stop them before they strike.

How would you stop the terrorist threat?

What Could Happen If SCOTUS Rules Against Obamacare?


In Heritage Work

Obamacare is back at the Supreme Court, this time to decide whether the Obama administration expanded the health care takeover beyond what the plain text of the law allows.

At question, Heritage Foundation experts Andrew Kloster and Andrew Abbott explain, is whether Americans who purchase health insurance on the federally-run exchanges are eligible for subsidies:

To help offset the cost of insurance, the Obamacare statute specifically states that lower-income individuals whose incomes fall within a set range are eligible for premium assistance tax credits to purchase health insurance “through an Exchange established by [a] State.”The text of the statute, however, does not say that such credits are available for purchases made through exchanges established by the federal government.

Nevertheless, in 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a rule saying that the tax credits are available for purchases not just under state exchanges, but also in the (currently 34) states in which the federal government operates the exchange.

Kloster and Abbott explain what may happen if the high court rules in favor of the plaintiffs and against the Obama administration:

  1. Individuals for whom insurance coverage became a greater out-of-pocket expense (exceeding 8 percent of their income in any given month) without the premium support tax credit would become exempt from the individual mandate.
  2. Employers in states that refused to set up Obamacare exchanges would be exempt from the employer mandate because no federal outlays would be made to trigger the penalty.

Removing the individual and employer mandates from the already shaky foundation will inevitably lead to the law’s collapse.

Do you think SCOTUS will rule in favor of the plaintiffs and lead to Obamacare’s dismantling?

These Are the Four Things That Are Debilitating our Defenses


In Heritage Work

The U.S. military is only marginally prepared to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense.

The Heritage Foundation’s 2015 Index of U.S. Military Strength, the first-of-its-kind evaluation of military preparedness, identifies the four key areas the Department of Defense ought to improve in order to reestablish a robust defense.

Heritage defense expert Jim Carafano explains:

Since the DOD has the most authority and capacity to address wasteful defense practices. By addressing four critical obstacles to improving operations in a systematic and integrated manner over the first months and years of the next Administration, the next leadership team in the Pentagon can lay the best foundation for a better-performing defense enterprise.

These are the four critical areas for improvement: Continue Reading »

Heritage’s Daily Signal Drives the Debate on Operation Choke Point


In Heritage Work

It’s the “greatest government overreach that no one is talking about,” according to Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI).

Photo: Getty Images

He is talking about Operation Choke Point, an initiative headed by the Justice Department and carried out by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that aims to cut off “high risk” business from banking services. This includes perfectly legal businesses like coin-dealers, pharmaceutical sales and, unsurprisingly, fire-arm dealers.

The Heritage Foundation’s news team at The Daily Signal has been covering Operation Choke Point for months. Our reporters have won exclusive interviews with small business owners victimized by this program, driving awareness of the issue in Washington and nationwide.

Duffy held a hearing yesterday with FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg. Afterwards, Duffy sat down with the Daily Signal to talk about the investigation, and accused Gruenberg of stonewalling the investigation:

It’s pretty clear that Martin Gruenberg is part of this targeting. He’s known that this has been going on for years and hasn’t held anyone accountable. I think the reason is that he approves of the targeting of these [industries].

Do you think the government should be held accountable for Operation Choke Point? 

Infographic: Where Your Tax Dollar Goes

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In Heritage Work

Source: Heritage Foundation.

You probably know that government spending is way out of control. Now you can see it.

Check out the Heritage Foundation’s new charts on government spending and debt in our Federal Budget in Pictures, now updated for 2015. You will find charts on the soaring debt, Obamacare taxes, and the growing Social Security deficit to name a few.

All Tax Revenue Will Go Toward Health Care, Social Security, and Net Interest by 2031.

All Tax Revenue Will Go Toward Health Care, Social Security, and Net Interest by 2031. Source: Heritage Foundation

Afghan Chief Executive to Visit Heritage Later This Month

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In Heritage Work

Later this month, the Afghan Chief Executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, will deliver an address at The Heritage Foundation during a visit to Washington.

This is not Abdullah’s first visit to Heritage. He came in May of 2010 and recognized Heritage expert Jim Phillips’ research on Afghanistan from before 9/11.

Since his visit, Heritage has continued to focus on this important country. Heritage expert Lisa Curtis testified on Capitol Hill in 2013 on our next steps in Afghanistan, and she wrote about the April 2014 Afghan elections for Fox News.

Be sure to check our events calendar to find out how to watch Abdullah’s address online.

What Tom Cotton’s Letter to Iran Got Right About the Constitution


In Heritage Work

Sen. Tom Cotton (Photo: Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom)

There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the letter Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and 46 other senators  sent to Iran’s leadership. The letter correctly informed Tehran that any nuclear deal they make with President Obama must also be approved by the Senate.

Heritage Foundation expert Arthur Milikh writes that Cotton’s letter got something fundamentally right about the separation of powers endowed by the Constitution:

This letter perfectly showcases the intelligence beneath our constitutional design. For America’s founders, both the Senate and the presidency are to channel and accentuate the best qualities of each institution, while preventing either from acting alone, especially in foreign policy.

Our Founders created the Legislative and the Executive branches with unique powers–and they must work together:

The president and the Senate are two sides of the same coin.  The senate should have the “talents, information, integrity,” while the president has “secrecy and dispatch.”

Cotton correctly points out that “President Obama will leave office in January 2017, while most of us will remain in office well beyond then—perhaps for decades.”  The president would do well to remember that despite the seeming grandeur of his position he is only one part—the part that requires energy and ambition—and not the institution designed for long-term, deliberate thinking.

You can read Milikh’s full analysis in the Daily Signal, here. 

Do you think Sen. Cotton’s letter was correct? 

Lee-Rubio Tax Plan Takes a Step Towards Tax Reform


In Heritage Work

Photo: Getty Images

America’s tax code is bloated and in need of serious reform. Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) may have one solution.

Their new tax proposal would simplify the tax code and help grow the economy, say Heritage Foundation economists David Burton and Curtis Dubay in a new report.

The Lee-Rubio plan would streamline the way businesses are taxed, cutting down the unwieldy seven-bracket system and replacing the process of taxing depreciation with a more straightforward method based on expenses. These and other provisions would modernize the tax code and grow the economy. But there is room for improvement on individual income taxes:

The business side of the Lee–Rubio plan is the best business income tax reform plan that has been proposed in Congress in recent memory. The individual side is a modest step in the right direction, but leaves much room for improvement. The business tax reforms are so positive that, taken as a whole, the plan would dramatically improve the economy and the incomes of American families.

Burton and Dubay also note that their analysis could change when Lee and Rubio release their full plan.

What do you think about the Lee-Rubio tax plan? Tell us in the comments below.

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