Your Ad can go here! Contact us today at email@example.com and learn how affordable it is.
A letter from a small group of four pro-Internet-tax advocacy groups sent to Members of Congress yesterday claims that The Heritage Foundation is wrong on the policy and the facts regarding the issue of Internet sales taxes. Their assertion falls short.
There are several fatal problems with the bill, which would allow states to force out-of-state businesses to collect sales taxes for them. The misnamed Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) would be bad for consumers and bad for America.
Right now, under the long-standing “physical presence standard,” states can force only businesses that have a store, plant, or warehouse within their borders to collect their sales taxes on their behalf. This standard originated in the 1992 Quill Supreme Court case and has worked well since.
This is why, if you buy something online from a business that had no presence in your state, it doesn’t have to collect sales tax from you. The MFA would overturn the physical presence standard and force those out-of-state businesses to collect that tax and remit it to your state.
The authors of yesterday’s letter argue that such state power “asserts federalism” by “returning decision making authority over the collection of state taxes to state legislatures, where it belongs.” This interpretation misses the mark.
State legislatures been not been denied their right to establish their own sales tax laws. Indeed, they have all made decisions as to whether—and to what extent—sales should be taxed. Rather, they’ve been denied the ability to apply those laws to businesses that have no presence within their borders. That states can have their own laws that apply only to people and businesses that choose to reside within the state’s borders is at the very heart of federalism. Strike that away, as MFA does for sales taxes, and federalism becomes a badly weakened principle.
In their letter, the four signers also point to a statement in a joint memo signed by the president of our sister organization Heritage Action—as well as more than 50 other conservative leaders—that the MFA would impose “added costs for retailers and American consumers, directly through the sales taxes imposed, but also through the added burden of collecting the taxes for the 9,600 separate taxing jurisdictions in the U.S., each with its own unique definitions, holidays, and rates.”
The four signers of yesterday’s letter argue that this statement is incorrect, since the MFA requires states to identify a single statewide agency to administer sales tax collections. This provisions limits taxing jurisdictions to “only” 46 authorities. But retailers would still be subject to the tax laws of each of the nearly 10,000 tax jurisdictions, each of which has its own rates and tax base, a Herculean task.
Allowing state tax officials to force online businesses in other states to collect their taxes is simply a bad idea.
The post Pro-Internet-Tax Groups Get the Facts Wrong appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
With the weekend’s grand slam appearance on the Sunday talk shows by yet another official unqualified to talk about Benghazi, the Obama Administration has again shot itself in the foot.
White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer attempted to defend U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s mischaracterization of the Benghazi terrorist attack, which she blamed on the now infamous anti-Islam video. It was a poor show.
All of this stands in stark contrast with White House’s handling of the Navy SEAL Team Six raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011. We have all seen the images of President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton huddled in the White House situation room with the national security staff, riveted to live images of the nighttime raid. It was hardly over before President Obama, speaking proudly as commander in chief, went on national television to announce the death of the enemy of the American people. The Administration even cooperated with the producers of the movie Zero Dark Thirty about the mission to kill bin Laden.
But now, “irrelevant” is the word chosen by Dan Pfeiffer over and over to describe some of the most pressing questions regarding the White House’s role in the Benghazi affair. Instantaneously, “irrelevant” became the word of the day on social media.
Where was President Obama the night of the terrorist attack? Unlike the Osama bin Laden raid, the President was disturbingly disconnected from the attack on an American ambassador. After the five o’clock intelligence briefing in which Obama was informed that the U.S. diplomatic facility was under attack and the U.S. ambassador to Libya missing, the President’s whereabouts remain unaccounted for the rest of the evening. The next day, Obama flew to Las Vegas for a fundraiser. “I don’t remember what room the President was in on that night, and that’s a largely irrelevant fact,” Pfeiffer snapped at Fox’s Chris Wallace.
Or who doctored the talking points, served up to the media and the American people by Rice on September 16 with such conviction? That also, according to Pfeiffer, is “irrelevant.”
Contrary to the election-time narrative that “al-Qaeda is on the run,” defeated by the Obama Administration, President Obama and his staff are now pleading ignorance across the board. Pfeiffer’s problematic media appearance could fit into an emerging narrative that the Obama Administration may have been more incompetent, than Machiavellian in its handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack. Administration officials spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity, proffering the line that bungling, ignorance, and inexperience may have been at the root of the debacle that left four Americans dead in Benghazi.
It is not likely, though, that Members of Congress will be satisfied with being told that their questions are “irrelevant” when hearings to unearth the truth resume this week.
Senator Byron Dorgan (D–ND) told Greenwire (subscription required) that an energy efficiency bill that passed through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would be a necessary “first step” to more federal efforts to overhaul energy policy.
The legislation, introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D–NH) and Rob Portman (R–OH), contains a number of subsidies for commercial and residential building upgrades, manufacturing and industrial processes, and worker training programs and would be a giant step in the wrong direction for U.S. energy policy.
The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, more commonly known as Shaheen–Portman, uses taxpayer dollars to skew decisions that families and businesses should make on their own. For instance, the legislation creates:
These programs are a wasteful and inefficient use of taxpayer dollars and ignore the efficacy of how markets promote efficiency gains. Businesses make investments in technological innovations because it saves them money in the long run. Families will install more insulation in their home without a taxpayer incentive to do so.
When the government substantially alters those decisions with other peoples’ money or with mandates, there are opportunity costs for businesses and families, which can take away other energy efficiency investments consumers would make in a world without efficiency mandates and subsidies.
Further, families and businesses already place a high value on saving money. And even when a family isn’t capturing the energy savings it should, that doesn’t mean they’re making an inefficient decision or that government mandates and subsidies will make it better. By taking decisions away from the homeowner or business owner, these programs are making Americans worse off, not better.
Whether or not the subsidized investments that would come from the Shaheen–Portman legislation save money or improve efficiency is irrelevant. The question is whether taxpayer money should be used to support them and the answer is simple: they should not. Companies will make these investments if they believe the technology is promising, worth the risk, and the best use of their investment dollars.
If politicians believe Shaheen–Portman should be a springboard for broader energy policy reform, we’re jumping into a pool of more subsidies and unnecessary government intervention into the energy economy. That’s a pool American taxpayers and consumers don’t want to be swimming in.
Later this week, President Obama will travel to the National Defense University (NDU) for a major policy address.
Under massive pressure to address his Administration’s mishandling of the terrorist murders of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, and potentially illegal surveillance of Associated Press reporters, Obama will attempt to refocus the nation toward his polices for fighting what remains the most immediate threat to America: terrorism. This will include the use of drones, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and progress in the War on Terror in general.
It is not yet known what Obama will say. Will he retrench further on drone use against terrorists abroad? Will he move again to close Guantanamo? He will certainly not be able to claim that the “tide of war is receding,” as he once did.
This Administration has had some stunningly significant victories, most especially the killing of bin Laden. It has also had some terrible repudiations: disaster in Benghazi, the French intervention in Mali, a kidnapping in Algeria, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and homegrown bombers in Boston. The intent of the present policies may have been good, but the effects have been poor.
The over-reliance on drone strikes is a significant issue. The use of drones to kill leaders of the terrorist movement is laudable and a great tool, but it is wildly optimistic to think that alone, drone strikes would be enough to end al-Qaeda’s threat to Americans.
Even adding in the amazing capabilities of our high-end Special Operations Forces (SOF) is not sufficient. Al-Qaeda has metastasized from a centrally led organization to a nearly completely decentralized web that operates on the vaguest of “commander’s intent.” Groups in diverse areas attach themselves to al-Qaeda, and individuals self-radicalize in America and around the world. Instead of being beaten down, al-Qaeda grows every day.
Obama could also make a call to move counterterrorism back to the realm of law enforcement, where it resided during the Clinton Administration. This inadequate view led to the September 11 attacks in 2001. Such an effort would probably make many of the President’s supporters happy (the same ones who called Major Nidal Hassan’s terrorist attack on fellow Army service members an act of “work place violence”), but would be an unmitigated disaster. That would be exactly the wrong direction to go.
Likewise, a new effort to close Guantanamo would not be positive. Soon after his first election, Obama recognized that the Bush Administration had tried to “give back” nearly all the long-term detainees, but either could not find a country who would take them, or the detainee refused to be repatriated to their native lands because they did not want to face justice there (many countries’ prison systems are less hospitable then Guantanamo’s facilities).
Today this thorny problem still evades a solution that Congress can agree on. Obama’s desire for a public relations victory is not obtainable without the suspension of good judgment.
What does this all auger for the address at NDU? Clearly a new direction is required in the U.S. response to terrorism. The approach of the past five years has proven inadequate and been motivated more by wishful thinking than by harsh realities.
The terrorist threat to America and her allies is greater today, and more dangerous. Rather than back down and declare victory where none exists, the nation needs to push forward and aggressively hunt down its enemies.
Drones and SOF are not enough alone, trying to twist into a “legal pretzel” to close Guantanamo is a complete waste of effort, and wishing away the expanding threat of al-Qaeda’s affiliates is delusional. Yes, a new counterterrorism direction is needed, but it is more likely that this Administration does not have the stomach to provide the kind of aggressive strategy that is required.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the Oklahoma tornado yesterday. The tornado, which touched down at 2:56 p.m. yesterday outside Oklahoma City, left massive destruction in its wake and took the lives of at least 24 people.
On average, over a thousand tornadoes strike throughout the U.S. each year, but very few reach the level of devastation caused by yesterday’s storm, which had 166 mile per hour (mph) to 200 mph winds. Oklahoma itself is also no stranger to these storms. Indeed, already this year more than 16 tornadoes have touched down in the state.
President Obama has already issued a federal disaster declaration for the state and ordered federal aid to the region. Yet even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has begun to deploy to the area, the reality is that local governments, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and community members will be the focal point of most response and recovery activities. Already we have seen this fact ring true in Oklahoma, as community members came to each other’s aid, the local Salvation Army and Red Cross mobilized, and police and rescue workers quickly responded.
For families and individuals, the best thing they can do is be prepared for the worst. Being prepared will ensure that emergency workers can instead focus on vulnerable members of the community and those in need. So to, it is the individual whose family is safe and secure who can volunteer at a disaster relief center or local charity and come to help others.
What Oklahoma needs now, however, is the assistance and support it needs to rebuild.
People line up to go to the Apple store, but can’t stand waiting in line at the DMV. That’s because consumers love good products and good service. Businesses tend to provide reasons for lining up, while governments simply force us to.
So for years now, conservatives have rejoiced in the power of the Internet. Web-based businesses increase competition, squeezing down costs and forcing their stodgy competitors to improve or collapse. But the Internet has come of age, and these days it’s just as subject to the temptation of cronyism as any brick-and-mortar store.
Amazon.com serves as an ideal example.
“A few years back, Amazon was waging a scorched-earth campaign against states that attempted to collect sales taxes from internet businesses,” blogger Megan McArdle reminds us. Now the company is actually lobbying in favor of federal legislation that would force companies to collect sales taxes for the buyer’s home state.
The difference now is that Amazon is large enough that collecting sales tax is not a burden. Plus it can afford all the lawyers it will need to deal with rules written by thousands of tax jurisdictions nationwide. Small retailers can’t afford that hassle, so Amazon is using the government’s power to tax as a way to reduce competition. That won’t be good for consumers in the long run.
Craigslist is another profitable website that destroyed its newspaper competition in a fair fight and now wants to protect its turf. “Craigslist has sued or issued cease-and-desist letters to dozens of startups in recent years,” reports Gordon Crovitz in The Wall Street Journal. “Litigation is a common tactic to suppress competition, especially when overly broad statutes are available as cudgels.”
Craigslist is currently using a law written in 1984—in the Dark Ages before Web commerce—to try to block competitors.
Cronyism comes in many forms, but it depends on companies using the power of the government to help them make money by blocking out competition. There are two business models on display: Young start-ups usually try to find ways to produce newer or better products at lower prices. But as companies get older and larger, they too often turn to using the power of government to rig the game, finding ways to use regulation to limit their competition.
It’s a collusion that limits competition and hurts consumers.
Where do food stamps come from?
They come from taxpayers—certainly not from family farms. Yet the “farm” bill, a recurring subsidy-fest in Congress, is actually 80 percent food stamps and other government nutrition programs.
The food stamps sweeten the farm deal for lawmakers, who admit that the combination works for their political purposes. As Heritage experts Daren Bakst and Diane Katz explain:
The food stamp portion creates a reason for urban representatives to support farm subsidies, and for farm-state lawmakers to support food stamps.
Talk of de-politicizing agriculture programs and welfare policy is met with stiff resistance. For example, Senator Thad Cochran (R–MS), ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, recently told the North American Agricultural Journalists group that food stamps should continue to be included in the farm bill “purely from a political perspective. It helps get the farm bill passed.”
Food stamps are there to help “get the farm bill passed.” And the relation of the rest of the farm bill to farming is also questionable. Bakst and Katz note that “Congress has expanded the farm bill over time into a costly compilation of disparate programs. Along with agriculture and food stamps, the legislation includes dozens of forestry, conservation, energy, and rural development programs.”
It has become the norm that Congress lumps billions—even trillions—of dollars in taxpayer-funded programs together into huge bills. This allows them to sneak in plenty of special-interest pork.
Each of these programs deserves to be evaluated on its own, and taxpayers deserve transparency from Congress about how it plans to spend our money.
For example, food stamps are a massive program that needs a careful look. Food stamp spending has doubled under the Obama Administration, and participation is at historic highs. Recruiters hold bingo games and other “parties” to try to get more people on the food stamp rolls.
Farm commodity programs are also a major concern and in dire need of reform. Congress may eliminate the egregious direct payment program, which pays farmers for doing nothing. However, instead of stopping there, both the House and Senate farm bills would replace direct payments with programs that could wind up being even costlier.
Food stamps and farming ultimately have to do with food, but that’s about all they have in common. Making the farm bill 80 percent food stamps just doesn’t make sense.
Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.
The post A Bumper Crop of Food Stamps appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
Since late last year, workers in Bangladesh have been beset by tragedy after tragedy. First there was a factory fire that killed over 100 garment workers in November. Then last month a garment complex collapsed, killing over 1,000 people.
Now, as if to add insult to injury, the Obama Administration is threatening to raise U.S. tariffs on products that we buy from Bangladesh. In a proposed regulation, the U.S. Trade Representative, based on input from the AFL-CIO, is suggesting tariffs be increased on imported goods from Bangladesh to punish the country for its poor labor practices. Bangladesh currently enjoys duty-free tariffs on some items under the General System of Preference (GSP), which grants tariff breaks to poor developing countries in order to encourage economic development.
This is bad policy. GSP imports from Bangladesh account for less than 1 percent of all imports from Bangladesh. In addition, GSPs for Bangladesh cover mostly agricultural goods. This will hurt the country’s most vulnerable by limiting farmers’ access to U.S. to markets. Rural Bangladeshis earn 57 percent less than their urban counterparts, and $10 per month less than the soon to be increased minimum wage of $38 per month.
Any tariff increases in general would be deleterious to the Bangladeshi economy. Tariffs increase the cost of exporting, ultimately eliminating jobs. This would put the very workers U.S. lawmakers are trying to protect out of jobs and make needed regulatory improvements even less likely.
These tragedies are horrific, but let’s not add insult to injury by taking away jobs from Bangladesh’s most vulnerable.
Germany is moving closer to supporting a move by the European Union (EU) to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, according to news sources. If true, this is a welcome development. German support for listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization would help rectify the glaring and inexcusable omission by other European countries that fail to name Hezbollah for what it is.
In March, a spokesman for Germany’s Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich stated that the minister supports listing Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in the EU. However, Friedrich’s comments contained the caveat that such a move would be dependent on compelling evidence of Hezbollah’s guilt in a July 2012 bus bombing in Burgas, Bulgaria, which killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver.
But there is already plenty of evidence.
In February, Bulgarian authorities announced the findings of a six-month-long investigation into the terror attack that found “obvious links” between the bombing and Hezbollah. In April, the European Police Office (EUROPOL) issued a statement that could be viewed as an endorsement of the Bulgarian findings, saying “indications suggest possible links” between the Burgas bombings and Hezbollah. What further compelling evidence Friedrich believes necessary is not clear.
What is certain is that due to the need for consensus, the EU is unlikely to act quickly on listing Hezbollah as a terrorist group. Sovereign nations such as Germany have the legal ability and moral responsibility to act on their own as the EU continues to drag its feet on the issue of Hezbollah. As research by The Heritage Foundation recently pointed out:
European countries can pull their heads out of the sand and designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization without waiting for the EU to do so. This would enable a long-overdue crackdown on the group’s fundraising, recruitment, and operational networks that would make the world safer for Europeans and Americans while helping to stabilize the volatile Middle East.
Germany would be a good place to start. While Hezbollah is active throughout Europe, Germany is home to the most active members.
Hezbollah is clearly and unabashedly a terrorist organization. Its military wing continues to carry out terror attacks across the globe, including on European soil, which endanger innocent civilians. Their political wing continues to raise money and seek sympathetic followers. It’s high time for Europe and the individual countries within Europe to act.
Last Wednesday, off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, the Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie conducted a successful test of the next-generation missile defense weapon, engaging and destroying a dummy target warhead that had separated from a short-range attacking rocket.
The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is designed to seek and kill both attacking rockets and the warheads they carry. This next generation of the SM-3 interceptor is called the Block IB (SM-3 Block IB).
This is the third successful intercept test of the cutting-edge interceptor since its first test resulted in a failure to destroy the target on September 1, 2011. With this most recent test, the SM-3 Block IB program is now on track to provide a key element of the second phase of the Administration’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) missile defense program.
This second phase includes basing the SM-3 Block IB interceptors on both Navy ships and on land in Romania by 2015. These three successful tests have put the SM-3 Block IB program back on track to meeting the 2015 deadline.
However, sequestration could result in the outright cancellation of the European element of the PAA. This would be a major setback.
There are two critical lessons stemming from the combination of the three successful SM-3 Block IB interceptor tests and the failure in September 2001. First, a failure to achieve an intercept can potentially teach as much as a successful one. In this case, the proper response is to move forward with follow-on tests and not back off the program.
The second lesson is that it is wise to pursue a development program for next-generation military technology with a considerable degree of concurrency—that is, the stages of development should be pursued in an overlapping fashion rather than sequentially.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has long argued against concurrency, which it believes involves too much risk. But a strict interpretation of the GAO recommendation for avoiding concurrency, in the case of the SM-3 Block IB program, could easily have resulted in a failure to meet the 2015 deadline and needlessly weaken our defensive capability.
The current status of the SM-3 Block IB development program demonstrates that the GAO is underplaying the cost of pursuing military technology programs in a strictly sequential fashion. Accordingly, other missile defense development programs should pursue concurrency.
The post Missile Defense: Another Successful U.S. Test appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
Advocates of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion have produced a number of studies in various states that project significant economic benefits if states adopt the expansion. However, most of those studies omit one or more key factors that, when included, make expansion scenarios look considerably less rosy.
Advocates of the Medicaid expansion like to claim that states would be turning down “free money” if they don’t agree to expand their program. However, there is no such thing as “free money.” Rather, it really is “hidden cost” money. It is only by not looking at all the costs that the illusion is created that the money is “free.”
Supporters of the Gang of Eight immigration bill argue they want to make immigrating legally simpler, but their bill would make the H-1B system for highly skilled workers almost unworkable.
H-1B visas allow U.S. companies to hire highly educated foreign workers for occupations requiring specialized skills and knowledge. Employers must pay H-1B workers the “prevailing wage” and certify that their employment will not adversely affect other employees. This allows companies to expand and create jobs more for American workers as well.
Section 4211 of the Gang of Eight bill guts the H-1B program by imposing heavy new restrictions. It would force employers using H-1B visas to:
Forcing businesses to pay H-1B workers above-market wages is bad enough. The other restrictions would create a bureaucratic nightmare for employers and put them in legal jeopardy. For instance, how can an employer prove that it has offered the job to all “equally qualified” American applicants except by choosing them over the H-1B worker? Qualifications are inherently subjective. They depend on a business’s unique needs and a worker’s unique skills. Nonetheless, employers would have to objectively prove—according to the Department of Labor’s standards—that each H-1B hire had better qualifications than every rejected American applicant.
The “non-displacement” requirement forces H-1B employers to prove that each employee who quit was not effectively discharged and that performance problems fully justified any layoffs. Again, the Department of Labor would establish the standards for evaluating such personnel actions.
The government lacks the information necessary to make these subjective judgments. Every business with H-1B employees would risk legal liability. Abusive government agents could easily argue that an American worker had the same qualifications as a foreign applicant and levy stiff fines. The IRS scandal demonstrates why businesses do not trust the government not to abuse such authority.
Rather than face this legal uncertainty and endure restrictions on their personnel actions, many employers would stop using the H-1B program altogether. This happened when Congress applied similar “recruitment and non-displacement” requirements to financial institutions that received bailout funds. Rather than comply, the affected businesses dropped out of the H-1B program and rescinded existing job offers.
The H-1B program allows companies to fill vital highly skilled positions—and keep their operations in America. It benefits American workers and businesses. Congress should not make the H-1B system for highly skilled immigrants nearly unmanageable.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post did not clarify that this post refers only to the H-1B visa system, not to other systems for highly skilled immigration.
Proposed changes to food aid programs would allow U.S. tax dollars to feed more people at a lower cost.
Representatives Ed Royce (R–CA) and Karen Bass (D–CA) recently proposed legislation that would remove counter-productive restrictions on the use of food-aid dollars while ending a wasteful process known as “monetization.”
Monetization occurs when the government donates U.S. food to charities instead of giving them dollars. These charitable organizations then sell the food in other countries and use the proceeds to fund development-related activities. The Government Accountability Office found that monetization programs wasted $219 million over a three-year period that otherwise could have been used to fight hunger or returned to taxpayers.
Royce and Bass’s bill would also remove mandates that force aid dollars to be used to purchase U.S.-grown food and shipped on U.S. vessels, even when there are more cost-efficient options available.
The legislation builds on a more modest proposal by the Obama Administration to modernize U.S. food aid programs and includes specific policy reforms that The Heritage Foundation has previously recommended.
Based on Obama Administration estimates, the proposal would enable the same funding to benefit 2 million to 4 million additional people around the world. Royce and Bass would take that a step further by removing entirely the legislative restrictions that increase costs and reduce the effectiveness of U.S. food assistance.
U.S. special interest groups whose funding might be threatened have expressed opposition even to the Administration’s modest reform proposals. But nothing the reforms suggested by the Obama Administration or Royce and Bass would prevent U.S. aid dollars from being spent on U.S. food and shipped on U.S. vessels, as long as that is the most affordable and best way to get food to the people who need it.
Freeing aid dollars to be used more efficiently is a bipartisan reform that Americans should embrace.
The post Getting More Bang for the Buck from Food Aid appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
“Veterans and their families are the single greatest natural resource this country has.” – James Carafano
Veterans are highly skilled, dedicated individuals who bring to the civilian workforce those same qualities. However, transitioning from the battlefield to civilian life can be difficult. The panel of veterans and philanthropists at Heritage’s Protect America Month event, “Serving Those Who Serve,” gave some insight on how communities can help.
Different veterans need different kinds of help. Some have serious physical injuries, others have psychological wounds. Some have post-traumatic stress disorder, others have traumatic brain injuries. Some families have been destabilized through one member’s military service.
Colonel Lettie Bien, representative of the Fisher House, noted that the female veteran population is growing and widely misunderstood. Women returning from service have different needs than men, including different health and family issues.
Devin Holmes, founder and CEO of Warrior Gateway, explained that one of the most difficult aspects of supporting veterans is simply finding them. Many return from service and don’t recognize the community they return to. They are overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of organizations wanting to help them, so many don’t seek help at all. Warrior Gateway helps veterans find assistance for their specific needs through local resources, whether it’s counseling, physical therapy, or housing.
For wounded veterans, returning to civilian life may seem overwhelming. Engaging in physical activity, which veterans are very familiar with, may give them the courage to take the first steps. Organizations like Team River Runner and Warriors and Quiet Waters help wounded warriors begin their transition back to civilian life with kayaking and fly fishing, respectively. Organizations like these that cater specifically to the families of service members and veterans are especially important.
The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides grief and trauma resources to the families of those who made the greatest sacrifice. ThanksUSA helps families by “providing need-based college, technical and vocational school scholarships for their children and spouses.” ThanksUSA’s founder, B. Robert Okun, said that supporting “the family structure back home” is a top issue for service members, and education is an important readiness and retention issue.
One organization, Esprit de Corps, has the mission of educating individuals and other organizations on how to best help veterans. Veteran Nation is their documentary film on the “experience of how America has treated our veterans and their families from Bunker Hill to Baghdad; the challenges facing this generation; and how the American people can best serve those who served.”
Every generation has a community of veterans that made sacrifices to provide for the common defense. The communities they return to should show their gratitude by providing them the best help possible. A few long established organizations that help veterans include The American Legion, Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Easter Seals. These groups and others like them welcome help from general and skilled volunteers, as well as donations.
To all Americans who have served our country, thank you.
Genevieve Syverson is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.
In initiating the annual process for renewal of the ban on Burmese imports last week, Representative Joseph Crowley (D–NY) reiterated his desire that the Administration “not waver” from an “action-for-action” policy that demands concrete political reforms in return for easing of U.S. sanctions.
It’s a justifiable and admirable concern. The problem is that, despite the voices of Congressman Crowley—a longtime leader in defense of human rights in Burma—the co-sponsor of the ban extension, Representative Peter King (R–NY), and an emerging generation of leaders on this issue led by Congressman Trent Franks (R–AZ), “action for action” is a thing of the past.
The Administration, in consultation with congressional leadership, has moved from “action for action” to “action and hope for the best.” It has removed, suspended, or otherwise eased sanctions on Burma across the board. But instead of calibrating these rewards in response to actual reforms, in an effort to impact Burma’s domestic political balance, it has taken to preemptively rewarding the reformers themselves.
This makes subjective judgments about personalities and Burmese politics more important than developments on the ground. In fact, taken to its logical conclusion, a policy focused on political dynamics effectively divorces policy from performance. What matters most in such an approach—even if reforms stall or reverse—is support for the good guys and the ability of our diplomats to recognize them.
The renewal of import restrictions—if it proceeds (there are indications from the Senate that it may not)—is inoperative. There is an understanding between Congress and the Administration that the restrictions on imports be waived. They want to do away with the ban but in a way that theoretically gives the Administration the authority to re-impose it. Theoretically, because it is not clear at all what would constitute cause for re-imposition. If the ban is not extended by Congress, re-imposition becomes even more theoretical.
The Administration, congressional leadership, and former stalwart defenders of liberty in Burma moved too quickly to reach consensus on relaxing this sanction and others, including the investment ban, which has proceeded under a similar agreement. Yet, even in the face of reports of what Human Rights Watch calls “ethnic cleansing,” the Administration is looking to up the ante. Formal notification has been given to make Burma a beneficiary of tariff breaks under the Generalized System of Preferences program. The Administration has also initiated discussions with Congress on opening channels of military-to-military engagement and assistance.
It is here, military-to-military relations, where Congress may finally draw the line. The pushback on the Administration’s plans has been stronger than expected, and efforts are underway in both houses to legally prevent or severely condition any engagement of the Burmese military.
Given growing congressional resistance to ever deepening engagement with Burma, it is possible that Thein Sein’s visit to Washington will mark the peak of “action and hope for the best.” The Administration has not gotten to this point of accommodation with the regime in Burma on its own. It will take robust congressional leadership to help it acknowledge its shortcomings and craft a policy more responsive to the situation on the ground.
Lawful immigration can bring important economic and cultural benefits both to the United States and to the immigrants. Americans rightly live and celebrate the values of America, including limited government, personal liberty, and free enterprise, and beckon others to join us. We are united by belief in our founding documents and our creed that all men are created equal. As Ronald Reagan said, “The immigrants who have so enriched America include people from every race, creed, and ethnic background.”
While we welcome those who want to come here, we are a nation of laws and the rule of law requires fair, firm, and consistent enforcement. Immigration is no exception and in fact is critically important, because newcomers need to see the principle in action from their first day in America. Those who enter legally by our slow and bureaucratic system need to be rewarded, not left wondering whether they should have entered or stayed illegally and waited for amnesty.
In addressing immigration, our government should start with keeping the promises they made when they granted amnesty “for only this one time” in 1986. First, they must secure the border. Then they should enforce our laws by imposing stiff fines on those who hire illegal immigrants. These steps are supported by supermajorities of the American people.
After that, Congress should move to fix our slow, broken lawful immigration system. Individual bills addressing these specific problems step-by-step are good for the country because they are simple, clear, and transparent. They make it possible to get legislative victories where we can agree and make it hard to hide loopholes or sweetheart deals for special interests. They can build trust that government is working for the people.
Unfortunately, Congress is moving ahead with a huge, complex, and comprehensive bill that will include amnesty for those who have broken our immigration laws. And in a time of massive and increasing debt, we know that the bill will end up costing taxpayers trillions of dollars. After a short time, millions of illegal immigrants will have access to the full panoply of bloated means-tested welfare programs and qualify for overburdened entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Instead, Congress should proceed step-by-step: border security, then workplace enforcement, and then fixing our broken legal immigration system. These steps will fulfill past promises and benefit America economically while not adding the unnecessary fiscal costs of amnesty.
Read the Morning Bell and more en español every day at Heritage Libertad.
House Cloakroom: May 20 – May 24
Analysis: This week, the House will take up the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and student loan rate reform. The Northern Route Approval Act does just what its name suggests—approves the Keystone pipeline. This pipeline will be source of jobs and energy for Americans, and approval is currently being held up by the Obama Administration. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act reforms the way the government charges interest on student loans. The current rate of 3.4 percent is going back up to 6.8 percent this summer. Instead of Congress picking an interest rate, this reform would tie the interest rate to the Treasury rate plus 2.5 percent, making it a variable rate.
Major Floor Action:
Major Committee Action:
Senate Cloakroom: May 20 – May 24
Analysis: This week, the Senate will consider S. 954. This nearly $1 trillion bill has initial 10-year cost estimates of $955 billion—80 percent of which is food stamps. The bill would lock in new entitlement programs with shallow loss crop insurance (ARC) and target price supports (AMP).
Major Floor Action:
Major Committee Action:
The post Cloakroom: May 20 – May 24 appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
In light of a recently overturned guilty verdict in a sexual assault case, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called on Congress to modify the military criminal justice system, specifically this authority to overturn a court-martial.
Appropriately, an independent review panel has been established to review the issue of sexual assault in the military. Congress should withhold any changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) until the panel releases its recommendations.
Article 60 of the UCMJ gives the adjudicating officer in a military case the authority to “approve, disapprove, commute, or suspend the sentence in whole or in part and may dismiss any charge or specification by setting aside a finding of guilty.” Hagel proposes “eliminating the discretion for a convening authority to change the findings of a court-martial, except for certain minor offenses that would not ordinarily warrant trial by court-martial.”
This, according to Heritage’s Cully Stimson and Steven Bucci, “could undermine the unique role given to the system’s convening authority” to ensure order and discipline in the armed forces.
The UCMJ does not and should not operate like the civilian criminal justice system. The civilian criminal justice system’s primary purpose is to protect the populace. The military justice system must do so while also supporting the unique military community and maintaining “good order and discipline within the armed forces,” explain Stimson and Bucci.
Just as there are wrongful convictions in civilian criminal courts, there are occasionally wrongful convictions in military courts. The power to overturn wrongful convictions helps to deliver justice in a swift manner that allows service members to return to duty. Stimson and Bucci continue, “Without the power granted by Article 60, a convening authority would have no choice but to force a wrongly convicted service member to endure the time and anxiety of the appeals process.”
However, transparency is an important part of any justice proceeding, which is why part of Secretary Hagel’s proposal, to require “a convening authority to explain in writing any changes made in court-martial sentences, as well as any changes in findings involving minor offenses,” should be strongly considered by Congress.
Congress should consider the unique role of the military justice system as well as the findings of the independent review panel before making hasty changes to a system that has served the military well for decades.
Genevieve Syverson is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.
The post Don’t Hastily Change Military Justice Code appeared first on The Foundry: Conservative Policy News Blog from The Heritage Foundation.
Today’s technology means that education can be tailored to the specific needs of each child. Idaho is leading the way in adopting these types of innovations with its statewide initiative to integrate Khan Academy videos into the classroom.
The Khan Academy is an online-based learning tool that creates a self-paced environment. Students listen to lectures and engage in interactive activities geared toward content mastery—children must master concepts before moving on to future concepts. Students who have difficulty mastering a particular concept can re-watch lectures and move through content at a slower pace, and those who easily grasp a concept can move on quickly.
Khan Academy also uses a “flipped classroom” approach, which means students do homework in class, gaining from one-on-one guidance from the teacher, and watch lectures virtually at home.
Idaho has established the first statewide pilot of the Khan Academy. Thanks to donations from the J. A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, nearly $1.5 million in grants will be awarded to 47 Idaho schools for technology, professional development, and research. With this private donation, 10,000 students in nearly four dozen schools across Idaho will be using the Khan Academy in the 2013–2014 school year.
The Khan Academy believes that the focus on mastery learning allows students to move at their own pace, creating ownership and responsibility in learning.
The Khan Academy began when Sal Khan, an MIT and Harvard graduate, began recording math lectures and delivering them to his cousin who was struggling with traditional learning techniques. He eventually began posting the lectures online—after getting over his initial concern that “YouTube is for cats playing pianos, not serious mathematics.”
But it soon became clear that it was more than just his cousins watching his videos on YouTube. As demand for the videos grew, Khan decided to create the nonprofit Khan Academy. Today, Khan Academy is used in 20,000 classrooms around the world. Over a billion exercises have been completed on the site.
“In a traditional classroom, you group kids by age,” Khan explained in March. “You push them through in a sort of assembly line, factory model.… At different points in time, usually state-mandated, you kind of try to apply information to them—some kids get the information, some kids don’t—and if a kid gets a ‘C’ on say, basic exponents…you move on to negative exponents or fractions or something more advanced, even though you know that they had weaknesses in something more basic.”
But the Khan Academy model changes all of that with competency-based, self-paced learning:
If you’re confused about something, if you want to review something…these videos are there for you.… The first time you learn something, it’s stressful to have someone say, “Do you understand this now?” Or a lot of times you might be in seventh or eighth or ninth grade, and you forgot some concept from fourth or fifth grade.… You can now review it at your own time and pace.
Idaho is embracing new technologies such as the Khan Academy, enabling parents to engage more with their children’s schoolwork and enabling teachers to work one-on-one with each individual student—where the student is in the learning process. In so doing, they’re moving away from the assembly-line model of education and toward more customized options for children in the state.
On May 19, the United States hit its debt ceiling after adding $300 billion in more debt since lawmakers suspended the ceiling in February.
But the cash won’t run dry until at least Labor Day, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, whose department can employ a variety of cash management tools to continue spending beyond the official debt deadline.
Congress last hit the debt ceiling in January. The President and Congress then decided to “suspend” the debt limit through May 18. This is the first time that lawmakers adopted a debt ceiling date instead of a dollar amount. The Congressional Budget Office explains:
On May 19, the debt limit will be raised to its previous value—$16.394 trillion—plus the amount of borrowing that occurred while the limit was suspended (that is, from early February to May 18).
In other words, the President and Congress decided in February that they would continue borrowing through May 18, with the new debt limit becoming the then-current limit of $16.394 trillion plus whatever was added on since then. Washington racked up $300 billion in more debt in less than four months, making the current limit $16.7 trillion.
This is the pattern of recurrent budget negotiation crises:
We’ve entered stage 4, and hitting the debt ceiling should prod lawmakers to accelerate discussions over substantial spending reductions to improve the U.S. fiscal outlook. Despite lower deficits in the short term, the U.S. budget trajectory continues on a fiscal collision course as spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare is a ticking debt bomb. Stage 5 needs to become: Adopt substantial bipartisan policy reforms that significantly slow spending and put the budget on a path to balance in 10 years or less.
As the failed super committee negotiations (which resulted in the all-around-hated sequestration) demonstrated, lawmakers need to put in law real policy changes to the entitlement programs, and not push off tough decisions to a new committee that’s doomed to fail from the get-go. The threat of sequestration was not enough to gather lawmakers around bipartisan reforms. The savings and much more are necessary, though.
It’s overdue that lawmakers do their jobs and agree on a budget that focuses spending on federal priorities. The budget should fully fund national defense. It should reduce waste and duplication and eliminate inappropriate spending by privatizing functions better left to the private sector, leaving areas best managed on a more local level to states and localities. And it should make important changes to the entitlement programs so that they become more affordable and benefits are helping those with the greatest needs.
Our nation is on a dangerous fiscal course, and the debt ceiling is lawmakers’ opportunity to grab the oars and steer us out of the coming debt storm.
Your Ad can go here! Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn how affordable it is.