An Inconvenient tax: picking people’s pockets in Dallas, Texas

Posted on January 25, 2015. Filed under: Blogroll, Business, Economics, Government, Government Spending, Law, Liberty, People, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

An Inconvenient tax: picking people’s pockets

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Warning, when you check out, be on the lookout for pickpockets.

The latest green movement cause du jour is the banning or taxing of disposable plastic and paper bags. These laws or city ordinances are designed to nudge or coerce customers to bring their own reusable tote bag when they shop for groceries and other merchandise.

A number of United States cities including Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boulder, Austin and now unfortunately Dallas have either banned or taxed disposable plastic and/or paper bags or so-called “single-use carryout bags.” According to the Earth Policy Institute, over 20 million people are currently covered by 132 city and county plastic bag bans or fee ordinances in the U.S.

For decades most American and European businesses have provided their customers bags, at no additional charge, to carryout and transport their purchase. In the 1980s businesses began to give their customers a choice of paper or plastic.

On March 26, 2014, the Dallas City Council passed an 8 to 6 City Ordinance No. 29307. It requires business establishments that provide their customers “single-use carryout bags” to register with the city annually each location providing these bags and charge their customers an “environment fee” of 5 cents per bag to promote a “culture of clean” and “to protect the natural environment, the economy and the health of its residences.”

Give me a break. It is a new tax to raise millions in new tax revenue for the City of Dallas. Who are the elected Dallas-8 council member watermelons (green on the outside, red on the inside) that ordained this tax on the people and businesses of Dallas? The names of the Dallas-8 are Tennell Atkins, Carolyn R. Davis, Scott Griggs, Adam Medrano, Dwaine R. Caraway, Sandy Greyson, Philip T. Kingston, and Mayor Mike Rawlings.

The Dallas-8 are led by council member Caraway, who wanted to completely ban plastic and paper single-use carryout bags. Instead they decided to shake down Dallas businesses and their customers with a new highly regressive tax. Caraway refuses to call it a tax and claims the new ordinance which went in effect on January 1 is “a ban with a fee, such as other cities are doing across the United States.”

The eight-page ordinance includes the definition and standards that reusable carryout bags must satisfy: “A reusable carryout bag must meet the minimum reuse testing standard of 100 reuses carrying 16 pound.” Reusable bags may be made of cloth, washable fabric, durable materials, recyclable plastic with a minimum thickness of 4.0 mil or recyclable paper that contains a minimum of 40 percent recycled content.

All of the above reusable bags must have handles with the exception of small bags with a height of less than 14 inches and a width of less than 8 inches.

Business establishments can either provide or sell reusable carryout bags to its customer or to any person.

The city ordinance exempts some bags from the single-use carryout definition including:

Plastic bags used for produce, meats, nuts, grains and other bulk items inside grocery or other retail stores,
Single-use plastic bags used by restaurants to take away prepared food only where necessary to prevent moisture damage from soups, sauces, gravies or dressings,
Recyclable paper bags used by restaurants to take away prepared food,
Recyclable paper bags from pharmacies or veterinarians for prescription drugs,
Laundry, dry cleaning or garment bags,
Biodegradable door-hanger and newspaper bags, and
Bags for trash, yard debris and pet waste.
The Dallas 5 cent paper and plastic bag tax or environment fee applies only to single-use carryout bags defined as bags not meeting the requirements of a reusable bag.

Businesses that violate the ordinance can be fined up to a maximum of $500 per day.

Lee Califf, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, a bag manufacturing group, said “This legislation applies to a product that is less than 0.5 percent of municipal waste in the United States and typically less than 1 percent of litter in studies conducted across the country;” “Placing a fee on a product with such a minuscule contribution to the waste and litter streams will not help the environment: but it will cost Dallas consumers millions more per year on their grocery bills, while hurting small business and threatening the livelihoods of the 4,500 Texans who work in the plastic bag and recycling industry.”

Stop the shakedown of Dallas businesses and their customers. Repeal the inconvenient tax on paper and plastic disposable bags by voting out of office the Dallas-8 city council members who voted for this tax, Dwaine Caraway. Support your Texas state representatives in passing a new law that would prohibit cities such as Dallas and Austin from banning or taxing paper and plastic carryout bags.

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Obamacare sticker shock!

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Liberty, Macroeconomis, People, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, U.S. Constitution, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obamacare sticker shock!

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Health_Care_gov

A spoof of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov home page from the Daily Show.

Credit: http://www.taylormarsh.com/blog/

While gasoline prices may be going down, premiums, deductibles and co-payments for health insurance plans are skyrocketing.

Beginning Jan.1 all individual and group employer-provided health insurance must comply with the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

More than 156 million Americans have their health insurance plans provided by their employers and another 25 million purchase their health insurance in the individual market, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

More than 60 million people age 65 and older and those younger with disabilities qualify for Medicare, a social insurance program that pays on average less than 50 percent of their health care costs. The balance of their health care costs must be paid for by the individual or the individual’s supplemental insurance.

More than 60 million Americans who are poor qualify for Medicaid, a government insurance program jointly funded by federal and state governments for individuals of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care. Obamacare expanded Medicaid coverage to those earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line (about $15,000 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four). Twenty-four states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion, including Texas.

Those who do not qualify for Medicaid because their earned income is higher than the federal poverty line may qualify for subsidies or credits paid for by taxpayers if they purchase a plan from one of the insurance companies offering them on the new health insurance exchanges.

Most individuals and small-group employers and their employees cannot keep their existing health insurance plans because of Obamacare.  They are shocked by the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments of the new plans offered by insurance companies to replace their existing health insurance plans.

Texas_Public_Policy_Foundation

Credit: Texas Public Policy Foundation

One reason the premiums and deductibles for non-grandfathered (not in existence on March 23, 2010)  individual and small-group employer (employers with 50 or fewer employees) health care insurance plans are significantly increasing is Obamacare requires the insurance companies to offer a minimum core package of items and services referred to as Essential Health Benefits (EHB). The only plans not required to have EHB are fully insured large group plans, self-funded administrative services only plans and grandfathered plans.

These essential health benefits fall into 10 categories: ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, rehabilitative services and devices, pediatric services, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease treatment. These EHBs must be included for plans offered both outside and inside the Health Insurance Marketplace such as those plans you find on the website HealthCare.gov.

A second reason the premiums, deductibles and co-payments for non-grandfathered health insurance plans are increasing is that individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage and the plans cannot have a maximum lifetime limit for medical expenses.

Millions of Americans, because of their age, gender, lifestyle, marital status and religion, do not need maternity care and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, pediatric services, abortions and contraceptives. These Americans were satisfied with and could afford their existing health insurance plans and wanted to keep them.

Americans believed Obama when he repeatedly said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

While in theory they could keep their plans under the Section 1251 “grandfather” provision of the Affordable Care Act, the regulations from the Obama administration interpreted this provision so strictly as to prevent most plans from being grandfathered.

Now the American people are learning from various news reports that the Obama administration officials knew in July 2010, when it was published on page 34,522 of the Federal Register, that “The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small-employer plans and 45 percent of large-employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013.” This represents about 93 million Americans facing cancellation of their existing plans because of Obamacare.

A sure way for a president to lose the trust of the American people is to misinform them about something they must pay for, such as the premiums, deductibles and co-payments for their health insurance plans.

Obama broke his promise to the American people and as a result his presidential job approval poll numbers have plummeted from an all-time high of 68 percent in Jan. 22-24, 2009 to a recent low of 39 percent on Nov. 5, according to Gallup.

Instead of making health insurance more affordable, Obamacare has made it more expensive for more than 181 million Americans who are now in sticker shock.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Obama’s war on Texas woman, children and religious freedom

Posted on March 21, 2012. Filed under: Columns, Economics, Government Spending, Health Care, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

 

Barack Obama addressing Planned Parenthood.

Credit: http://www.mahalo.com/planned-parenthood/

President Barack Obama’s popularity with women is falling in the polls as gas prices rise and unemployment remains high. Unless this is reversed quickly, Obama is going to lose in November.

For weeks now, Obama, the Democratic Party and their supporters in the media peddled the propaganda of a Republican Party war on women. This distraction is simply not working.

Why? Propaganda works when people trust or believe you. Many Americans simply do not trust or believe Obama, anymore. Case in point is the Texas Woman Health Program (WHP).

The Obama administration announced on March 15 that it will be terminating federal Medicaid funding of WHP. An estimated 130,000 of the state’s poorest low-income women who are between 18 and 44 and who do not otherwise qualify for Medicaid are covered by the program. Established in 2006, this research and demonstration program provides family planning services, physical exams, gynecological exams, breast and cervical cancer screening, diabetes testing, Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) screenings and contraceptive services. Texas is the first state to have the federal funding cancelled for this type of demonstration program.

Many Texans think if there is a war on women, Obama started the war.

Texas law prohibits public funding of health care provider clinics with affiliates that offer abortions. According to the Texas Health and Human Service Commission (THHSC) website:

“Section 32.0248, Human Resources Code, prohibits payment of WHP funds to a provider that performs elective abortions. A provider that performs elective abortions (through either surgical or medical methods) for any patient is ineligible to serve WHP clients and cannot be reimbursed for those services. This prohibition has been in effect since Sept. 1, 2005. The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) may recoup WHP funds that it determines were paid to providers that have performed elective abortions.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott issued Opinion No. GA-0844 letter dated Feb. 17, 2011 on the Constitutionality of subsection 32.0248(h), Human Resources Code, which prohibits the THHSC from contracting under the WHP with entities that perform or promote elective abortions or with affiliates of such entities. The opinion summary stated:

“Human Resources Code section 32.0248(h), which applies to women’s health care demonstration project services, provides that the Health and Human Services Commission may not contract with entities that are affiliates of entities that perform or promote elective abortions. This provision is not preempted by federal law.”

The opinion letter points out that Medicaid was established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act and under Title 42, section 1396a(p) of the United States Code:

“(1) In addition to any other authority, a State may exclude any individual or entity for purposes of participating under the State plan under this subchapter for any reason for which the Secretary could exclude the individual or entity from participation in a program under subchapter XVIII of this chapter under section 1320a-7, 1320a-7a, or 1395cc (b) (2) of this title.”

Without these restrictions on abortions, the WHP would not exist because the Texas Legislature would have not have created and funded the program.

There are more than 2,500 qualified providers that offer health care but do not promote or provide elective abortions, according to the THHSC. Planned Parenthood is a qualified provider with 44 clinics in Texas, making it the largest abortion chain in Texas. Federal regulation mandates that patients can pick any qualified provider participating in Medicaid. Texas requested a waiver from the regulation for the first time in 2011.

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius decided to decline Texas’ waiver request solely because Texas law prohibits taxpayer dollars from being allocated to entities that perform or promote elective abortions. On March 16, the Texas attorney general, Gregg Abbot, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, challenging Sebelius’ decision. The lawsuit alleges that:

“The Secretary’s action violates the Administrative Procedure Act because it is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and “not in accordance with law.” See 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). It also violates the Constitution of the United States by seeking to commandeer and coerce the States’ lawmaking processes into awarding taxpayer subsidies to elective abortion providers.”

The program is funded 10 percent by the state and 90 percent by the federal government. Administrative costs are split 50 percent by the state and 50 percent by the federal government. For 2012 Texas provided $3.3 million and the federal government $29.8 million for the WHP.

This funding will be phased out over the next three months, according to Cindy Mann, Director for Medicaid and State Operations, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This federal division is responsible for overseeing and administering the Medicaid law for HHS. She said, “We don’t have a choice. Medicaid law is clear: Patients, not the state, are able to choose the doctors and health care providers that can best serve them.”  Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed that Texas will find state funding to replace the $30 million from the federal government.

Planned Parenthood has endorsed and supports Obama for president. In an election year, the funding of Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics apparently takes priority over the health care needs of Texas woman. For additional background information about Planned Parenthood see the sidebar story.

On Jan. 20 HHS mandated that nonprofit religious employers that provide a health care plan for their employees must provide free contraceptives, sterilization procedures and abortifacients (abortion-inducing drugs) without the insured paying a co-pay, co-insurance or deductible.

 

Most group insurance employer-based plans do cover so-called “reproductive services,” namely contraceptives, sterilization procedures, abortifacients and abortions. However, employers in the past were allowed to select a health insurance plan that excluded these reproductive services.

The Obama administration is now forcing all employers including nonprofit religious employers to provide these services even if it is against the religious beliefs and convictions of employers and their employees. This includes both group insurance employer-based plans as well as employer self-funded plans where the employer funds or pays for all claims and a third party such as an insurance company is administering the plan.

The issue is not whether “reproductive services” are included in health insurance plans, but religious freedom. Obama’s war on women, children and religious freedom is a direct assault on the American people, their religious beliefs and the U.S. Constitution.

The American dream cannot long survive if we abandon our poor, murder our children and lose our faith. Obama and his progressive supporters need to be reminded of the words of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “The Negro cannot win as long as he is willing to sacrifice the lives of his children for comfort and safety.”

[Raymond Thomas Pronk is host of the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 3-5 p.m. Wednesdays and author of the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com]

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