Business & Economy
Time to bring up a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 30 June 2011 12:16
Statement by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member of the Committee on the Judiciary
Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution
Tax Increases Not the Answer for Deficit Reduction

The federal budget deficit is 15 times bigger today than it was in 1997, the last time there was a vote in Congress over a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  It’s time to bring it up again.

Voters sent a clear message in the last election that they want government spending reined in.  They know it’s morally wrong to make the next generation pay the bills for the way we live today, and that the problem isn’t that people are taxed too little but that Washington spends too much.  In fact, history tells us that an increase in taxes will only fuel more government spending.  Since World War II, Washington has spent $1.17 for every dollar in tax increases, so tax increases have proven to be a license for Congress to spend more money.

State-level requirements for balanced budgets work and serve an important purpose.  A balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution is the kind of serious spending reform needed for the sake of America’s fiscal well-being.

Harkin, Families USA to Release New Report Spotlighting Impact of Medicaid Proposed Cuts on Iowa’s Economy PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Harkin Press Office   
Monday, 27 June 2011 11:54

June 28 Teleconference, Report Release Will Detail How Cuts Could Cost Iowa Thousands of Jobs, More than a Billion Dollars in Lost Business Activity

Washington, D.C.—The Medicaid cuts in the House Republican budget, if implemented today, would have a devastating impact on the struggling economy of Iowa, putting thousands of jobs and more than a billion dollars in state business activity at risk.

On Tuesday, June 28, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers, will release a report titled “Jobs at Risk” that will detail how Medicaid cuts would damage Iowa’s economy.

As the report makes clear, there is also a human toll of such cuts, affecting the health and well-being of low-income and middle-class families, children, seniors, and people with disabilities. This report, however, will look specifically at the economic effect of Medicaid cuts, spotlighting the potential impact of a 5 percent, 15 percent and 33 percent Medicaid cut on Iowa’s economy.

Those percentages were chosen for the report, because the budget proposal adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives, sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), calls for cuts in federal funding to current state Medicaid programs of 5 percent in 2013, 15 percent in 2014, and 33 percent in 2021.

A teleconference for Iowa media will be held on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, to discuss the new Families USA report.

Teleconference and Release of Families USA Report “Jobs at Risk”

Noon EDT, 11 a.m. CDT
Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dial in toll-free: 877-780-3379
Confirmation code: 7301551

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
Ron Pollack, Executive Director, Families USA

Grassley commentary on disclosure of drug, medical device company payments PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Saturday, 25 June 2011 23:45

America’s prosperity hinges on our consumer-driven economy.  The economic recovery is slowed in part by tepid consumer confidence that adds to the reluctance by businesses to increase payroll, upgrade equipment and expand operations.  Decision-makers in the private sector are taking a wait-and-see approach due to uncertainty over the federal debt, tax, spending and regulatory policy.  The economic recovery could continue to languish if the federal government fails to rein in spending.

Even so, America’s strength and resilience still rests largely within the indefatigable optimism that drives innovators, entrepreneurs, workers and immigrants to scale the ladder of prosperity.

Americans cherish freedoms of speech, press and religion.  U.S. capitalism encourages people from all walks of life to create wealth and achieve the rewards offered by free enterprise.  Bargain hunters would agree the two essential elements of a good buy are the same for a robust economy:  consumer choice and competition in the marketplace.

In the U.S. Senate, I use my legislative and oversight authority to work to strengthen the rights of property owners, taxpayers, consumers, pensioners, patients, and investors.

Consumers armed with accurate, timely information are able to make better decisions and minimize buyer’s remorse.  Whether buying big-ticket items such as a car or home or looking for the best surgeon to perform a life-saving transplant, the most informed consumer is likelier to end up a satisfied customer at the end of the day.

I work to foster accountability and transparency in the public and private sectors.  This includes  efforts to advance reforms to the nation’s pension laws aimed at preventing bad actors from promising more than they could deliver (remember the Enron scandal); strengthen consumer-friendly comparison tools for family members searching for a quality nursing home; and, let the sun shine in on the financial relationships between medical device makers, pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals and non-profits.

The federal government’s system of checks and balances is meant to prevent overreach by the executive, legislative and judicial branches.  That’s why I am a strong supporter of sunshine and whistleblower protection laws.  Representing Iowans in Washington, I also have worked to keep close tabs on taxpayer dollars.  Taxpayers deserve to get the most bang for their buck when their hard-earned money is used to build roads, advance medical research, strengthen national security, pay for the military and fund recovery efforts caused by natural disasters.

Transparency also can improve America’s health care delivery system. Policymakers have long debated ways to improve quality and rein in the so-called spending curve of U.S. medicine.  On the Senate Finance Committee, I also channel efforts to improve effective medicine and patient safety by promoting better transparency between patients, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers.

I have pressed the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fully exercise its authority to achieve public disclosure between industry and the doctors who conduct $31.2 billion annually in federally sponsored medical research.  In response to what I exposed about the dramatic disparity between what a number of influential NIH-funded research physicians reported and what they received from pharmaceutical companies, the NIH drafted new guidelines for grant recipients to manage conflicts of interest.  A proposal has been waiting to be processed at the White House Office of Management and Budget since March.  The administration needs to move on this.  The NIH is in a pivotal position to help establish greater accountability in this area through disclosure.  Good stewardship of the tax dollars that back medical research requires it.

In addition, keeping consumers or medical providers in the dark about those with financial ties to medical device makers, as an example, does not help build trust or improve patient outcomes.

A patient having spinal surgery places trust in the doctor’s experience and expertise.  The surgeon relies on the current medical literature regarding safety, complications and adverse affects of a medical device or drug when making an informed decision about risks and benefits for the patient.  Troubling reports indicate that severe side effects may have been unreported or under-reported by clinical investigators with financial ties to a bone-growth product they had reviewed.

A patient who is considering surgery has a right to know if his or her physician has a financial relationship with the medical device the doctor is suggesting.  Likewise, a physician using the product deserves to know if the medical professionals who researched and prepared the literature on it have financial ties or consulting arrangements with that company. Public disclosure documenting such financial ties will promote accountability within the industry and allow the public to draw its own conclusions.   Legislation that I co-authored, the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, was enacted into law last year.  It will compel pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device and medical supply companies to disclose payments to physicians to the public, starting March 31, 2013, for all payments in calendar year 2012.   That will increase payment transparency.

Transparency and accountability throughout the public and private sectors are standards of good governance that I will continue to champion.  Transparency fosters goodwill in the marketplace and buoys consumer confidence.  Just as American consumers have a right to know where their meat and vegetables are grown, they also have a right to know if their doctor has financial ties to a pharmaceutical company or medical device manufacturer, and their doctors have a right to know about the financial ties of leaders in their profession.

For generations, American consumers have rewarded big thinkers and innovators to out-think and out-innovate the competition. Protecting the public’s right to know is as all-American as apple pie and fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grassley, Cantwell Propose Legislation for Domestically Produced Biofuels PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 24 June 2011 12:37

Tax Predictability Sought to Encourage Expansion of Clean Energy Alternative, Sustain and Create Jobs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Maria Cantwell of Washington today introduced legislation to simplify and extend the tax incentive for domestic biodiesel production.  Their bipartisan bill would provide predictability to investors and producers so the United States can continue moving forward to displace imported fossil fuels with low carbon, renewable biodiesel.

In putting forward the Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act of 2011, S.1277, Grassley and Cantwell said that the lack of certainty about the tax policy inhibits access to capital and could undermine the progress that the U.S. biodiesel industry has made to build the production capacity and infrastructure needed to displace imported petroleum diesel fuel with domestically produced, renewable, low-carbon biodiesel.

“Today’s high gas and diesel prices are slowing our economic recovery and burdening families,” said Cantwell. “For economic reasons, national security reasons, and environmental reasons, we must continue to invest in America’s clean energy economy. Biodiesel is America’s first advanced biofuel, it can be made from a variety of feedstocks, and is less polluting than today’s petroleum-based diesel fuel.  This bipartisan bill is smart federal policy because it is helping launch a nascent, domestically-based industry, reforms an existing credit to make sure it supports American biodiesel producers, and provides the industry the certainty it needs to continue to grow.”

“America is trying to kick its addiction to foreign oil, and biodiesel is part of the cure,” said Grassley.  “The more we can encourage domestic production and meet demand, the better off we’ll be economically, environmentally, and geopolitically.  This legislation simplifies the tax credit for producers.  It also gives investors predictability so they’ll be more likely to put their money into biodiesel production.  And it’s directly tied to jobs.”  

The biodiesel tax incentive was first enacted in 2004.  Since then, it has helped encourage the production and use of biodiesel.  Production in the United States has increased from 25 million gallons in 2004 to 690 million gallons in 2009, before Congress allowed the tax credit to lapse at the end of 2009, which resulted in job loss throughout 2010.  The credit was restored retroactively in December 2010 through December 2011.

A study by Cardno ENTRIX, an international consulting firm that specializes in environment and natural resources economics, estimates that this year, domestic biodiesel production is expected to support more than 31,000 jobs and replace 800 million gallons of imported diesel fuel.  The same study estimates that with the appropriate federal framework, by 2015 biodiesel production will replace 1.9 billion gallons of imported diesel fuel, support more than 74,000 jobs, and generate $4 billion in income and approximately $7.3 billion in gross domestic product.  The study also found that if Congress does not enact the Cantwell-Grassley Biodiesel Tax Incentive Reform and Extension Act of 2011 and the biodiesel tax credit is allowed to expire at the end of 2011, consumers would be forced to spend an additional $6.6 billion for diesel fuel between 2012 and 2015.

Specifically, the Cantwell-Grassley measure would:

  • eliminate potential abuses and simplify administration of the incentive for both taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service.  The bill changes the incentive from a blender credit to a production tax credit so that incentives are given for building the domestic production industry.   The change would focus the benefits of the credit on the production capacity of these cleaner, greener fuels rather than on the activity of just blending them with petroleum diesel. By focusing on the production of the 100 percent bio-based fuel, this bill will shut down, once and for all, any remaining opportunity for the abuse known as “splash and dash,” in which oil companies add a few drops of biodiesel to their petroleum diesel just to qualify for the tax credit. 
  • provide the $1 per gallon tax credit for the production of biodiesel, renewable diesel and aviation jet fuel that complies with fuel standards and Clean Air Act requirements that define qualified fuels under current law.
  • increase the credit from $1 to $1.10 for the first 15 million gallons of biodiesel produced for small producers, those with an annual production capacity of less than 60 million gallons
  • simplify the definition of “biodiesel” to encourage production from any biomass-based feedstock or recycled oils and fats.
  • simplify the coordination between the income tax credit and the excise tax liability to tighten compliance and reduce administrative burdens on taxpayers.
  • extend this tax credit for five years, giving needed financial predictability so that more facilities can be brought online in the United States.


Populist Caucus Applauds President Obama’s Decision to Open Strategic Petroleum Reserve PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Alexandra Krasov   
Friday, 24 June 2011 12:22
Washington, D.C. – Today, the leadership of the Populist Caucus applauded President Obama’s decision to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The president’s decision comes almost a month after the Populist Caucus called on him to open the Reserve and bring relief to millions of Americans who are faced with sky-rocketing gas prices. 

Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01), Chair of the Populist Caucus, said:

"As the Populist Caucus made clear last month, opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is a huge step towards bringing down gas prices and providing relief to millions of hard-working families that are struggling to make ends meet. I’m glad the President took this action. But we all know this is a temporary solution and more must be done to stop greedy oil speculators from driving up prices throughout the summer. That’s why the Populist Caucus will continue to work to implement its "Gas Is Too Damn High" platform to bring down gas prices for middle class families and all Americans."

Congressman Peter DeFazio (OR-04), Vice Chair of the Populist Caucus, said:

"This is good news for American consumers and bad news for speculators on Wall Street. Over 70 cents per gallon of gas is a direct result of excessive Wall Street speculation. The release of this oil undermines speculative trading and brings some relief to middle class families at the pump. This is a good first step, but more must be done to stabilize prices and rein in speculators gaming the system."

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (MD-04), ViceChair of the Populist Caucus, said:

"I applaud President Obama’s decision to open the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and relieve some of the financial burden caused by high gas prices. This is the first of three steps outlined by the Populist Caucus. Now, we must focus on ending greedy oil speculation and tax breaks for big oil companies. American families deserve to pay a fair price at the pump, and the Populist Caucus will continue to urge our Congressional colleagues and the President to join us in meeting this goal."

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Vice Chair of the Populist Caucus, said:

"I am very pleased with the President’s decision to release some of oil held in our Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). This move will help calm the markets by making it clear that we do not have a supply problem—and will help to curb the undue speculation that has been driving the price of oil higher and higher. With the Republican budget cuts to the Commodity FuturesTrading Commission (CFTC), which could regulate unfair speculation if fully funded, the President’s action is critical. Releasing oil from the SPR will help to protect American consumers at the pump, and I will continue to work with mycolleagues and the President to lower the cost of gas."

Congresswoman Betty Sutton (OH-13), Vice Chair of the Populist Caucus, said:

"No family should have to choose between filling up their tank or putting food on the table. I applaud President Obama for taking this bold action that will ease the burden facing Ohio families and help Ohio businesses put people back to work.


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