by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[F]or members of Congress who want get something done before the year, and the current congressional session ends, here are five opportunities to have a positive effect on the economy and do well by your constituents and fellow citizens.
Protect Americans’ Access to Affordable Energy. Congress will likely consider reauthorizing a tax extenders package that includes production tax credits (PTC) for wind and solar energy. These credits deserve to go the way of the Model T. They amount to subsidies for politically connected energy firms that cannot compete in the energy marketplace on either price or reliability. Energy from wind, solar, and other renewable sources is more expensive than energy from fossil fuels. So-called renewables are costly, and those costs are ultimately passed on to consumers, for no discernable environmental benefit. Nine of the 11 largest wind power-producing states are experiencing skyrocketing electricity prices, rising more than four times the national average.
Don’t Pass an Internet Sales Tax. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has indicated he wants to bring the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) up for a vote. If enacted, the MFA would empower state governments reach beyond their borders to tax businesses in other states outside their borders—a clear case of taxation without representation. Currently, a sales tax is only applied to online purchases when the seller has a physical presence in the state where the buyer resides. It would also pose a serious threat to small businesses. A recent study finds that compliance and maintenance costs for midsize retailers could range from $57,500 to $260,000 a year.
Investigate and Defund Operation Choke Point. Operation Choke Point is the biggest threat to small business you’ve never heard of. It is an egregious example of executive overreach through which the Obama administration seeks to shut down perfectly legal—yet politically incorrect—businesses by cutting off their access to banking services. The Department of Justice, under the pretext of fighting consumer fraud, is strong-arming lenders into canceling bank accounts for a wide variety of politically disfavored businesses—including firearm dealers, pawnbrokers, payday lenders, and even home-based charities—many with years of good relationships with their banks. Congress should hold hearings to investigate how this systematic abuse of power came to be, vote to defund it, and look for ways to prevent it happening again.
Bader’s other two recommendations: Avoid policies that increase unemployment, and pass the Insurance Capital Standards Clarification Act.