Business & Economy
Tax extenders, goals beyond revenue collection PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 14:05

Statement of Sen. Chuck Grassley

Senate Committee on Finance Hearing

Extenders and Tax Reform: Seeking Long-Term Solutions

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

There are almost 60 provisions that expired at the end of 2011, and there are even more that expire at the end of 2012. There is general agreement that all of these extenders need to be reviewed in the context of comprehensive tax reform. As we begin to consider what such reform would look like, it is important to discuss what, if any, goals and objectives, other than revenue collection, the tax code should accomplish.

The provisions that expired at the end of last year have various objectives. The non-revenue policy objectives vary from energy independence to job creation, from encouraging donations to charity to incentivizing capital investments and research.

This Committee has held numerous tax reform hearings the past two years.  Yet, we have not discussed what we should do about the numerous non-revenue policy objectives included in the current tax code.  This has also been ignored by the various witnesses who have come before the committee, including those here today.

In his written testimony, Mr. Johnson whimsically picks winners and losers by focusing on the revenue impact but fails to address the non-revenue reasons for many of the expired provisions.  He says they should remain dead. However, he does appear to support a movement to alternative fuels “because we import oil from trouble spots in the world and because fossil fuels pollute and lead to global warming”.

However, he believes the existing regime of tax incentives should be eliminated because movement to alternative fuels is better accomplished through a carbon tax.  He also states that the oil industry is undertaxed.  While I appreciate his support for alternative energy, his statements ignore the need to consider whether tax provisions should be part of a domestic energy policy that includes oil drilling.

Ms. Sherlock, a witness at the December 14, 2011, hearing on energy tax extenders, noted in her written testimony, “the income tax code has long been used as a policy tool for promoting U.S. energy priorities”.

The oil and gas industries have received massive, permanent tax breaks for over a hundred years.

In contrast, tax incentives for alternative energy have existed only for a few decades and have always been temporary. These incentives first appeared in the 1970s, in direct response to the oil crisis and they help to incentivize renewable resources.

Yet, discussions on incentives for the oil industry and for alternative energy often fail to consider that a key reason to support renewable energy sources should be energy independence.

The United States sends more than $400 billion each year overseas to buy foreign oil.  Now more than ever, the United States needs to ramp up domestic production of traditional energy -- including oil, natural gas, and coal -- and expand alternative fuels and renewable energy -- including wind, solar, hydropower, biomass and geothermal.

The U.S. Treasury pays out an average $84 billion a year to defend the shipping lanes by which foreign oil reaches the United States.  I do not see these costs in discussions of cost effectiveness of energy tax incentives.

Aside from energy independence, it is also important to consider the number of domestic jobs supported by the energy sector.

Clearly, in the short-term, Congress should extend tax incentives for alternative energy sources.  With the economy still sputtering, we cannot afford the job losses that occur from pulling the rug out from under industries like biodiesel and wind that are still developing.

In the long-term, however, we need to consider whether a permanent and comprehensive energy tax policy is appropriate and, such a policy should be developed in the context of comprehensive tax reform.

For sure, we need a tax system that is less complicated, fairer, and will make us more competitive in the global economy.  However, we need to consider whether and how to balance these principles against non-revenue policy objectives of priorities.  Energy independence is only one such objective.

-30-


 
Governor Quinn Announces First Investments from State's New Venture Capital Fund PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Nafia Khan   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 13:58

Invest Illinois Venture Fund Providing Access to Capital for Young, High-Growth Companies to Create Jobs and Grow the Economy

CHICAGO – January 31, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn today announced the first investments from the state’s new venture capital fund to support two Illinois start-up businesses, Buzz Referrals, Inc. and AuraSense Therapeutics. The Invest Illinois Venture Fund (IIVF) is a new venture capital program that is part of the $78 million Advantage Illinois program launched by Governor Quinn last October. The program supports young, innovative Illinois companies that show high growth potential, can demonstrate their place in the market and already have other investors.

“This new venture fund is allowing us to help small and start-up businesses increase innovation and competition, expand, and create good-paying jobs,” Governor Quinn said. “We must continue to do everything we can to provide small businesses and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to grow in order to boost the economy, create jobs and compete in the global marketplace.”

The state's $575,000 investment in Chicago-based start-up Buzz Referrals and Evanston-based AuraSense Therapeutics will help the two companies leverage $10.5 million in indirect private investment. The additional capital will help these companies continue to grow their businesses and create jobs. The additional capital will help these companies continue to grow their businesses and create jobs.

Founded in 2011, Buzz Referrals is a high-growth start-up business that develops and operates an online platform that creates custom referral programs based on social media. The platform allows corporations, small businesses, agencies, brokers and nonprofits to create and track online messaging that can be shared via email, social networks and word-of-mouth to maximize their contacts and customers. The IIVF helped Buzz Referrals leverage additional investments, which will enable the company to increase its staff size from four full-time employees to 20 full-time employees over the next two years.

“We’d like to thank Governor Quinn and the state of Illinois for their commitment to entrepreneurship and startups through the Invest Illinois Venture Fund,” said Jordan Linville, CEO and co-founder of Buzz Referrals. “Buzz Referrals offers simple and cost-effective solutions to help businesses acquire new customers through referral marketing. The IIVF's funding and resources will accelerate our growth and help Buzz Referrals be a leader within this space."

AuraSense Therapeutics, founded in early 2011, is a biopharmaceutical company dedicated to developing and commercializing spherical nucleic acid (SNA™) constructs, which can help fight diseases such as heart disease, cancer, skin conditions and bacterial infection. With the capital leveraged through the IIVF, the company expects to greatly accelerate the development and growth of multiple therapeutics and create dozens of jobs over the next three years.

“We are delighted to have Illinois’ new venture fund as part of the syndicate investing in AuraSense Therapeutics. Their participation is not only important validation of the AuraSense mission and gene regulation platform, but also will be key in transitioning the technology to important new therapeutics for a wide variety of debilitating diseases,” said Chad Mirkin, co-founder of AuraSense Therapeutics.

Governor Quinn launched the Advantage Illinois program in October 2011 to provide Illinois businesses and entrepreneurs with the access to the capital they need to start new companies and expand existing businesses. Advantage Illinois will leverage $78 million in federal funding that will allow businesses to bring innovative ideas and new products to market, and accelerate job creation and economic growth in Illinois. The IIVF is supported by the Governor's Illinois Innovation Council, which is actively working to execute strategies to enhance awareness of capital availability in Illinois and connect the dots between great ideas and the partners who can help turn ideas into companies and products.

In addition to the IIVF, the Advantage Illinois program is comprised of several components to spur institutional lending, including the Capital Access Program (CAP), the Participation Loan Program (PLP) and the Collateral Support Program (CSP). Some small businesses may also be eligible to receive Advantage Illinois financing. Businesses interested in participating in the IIVF may submit their applications online to DCEO at www.ildceo.net/AdvantageIllinois.

Advantage Illinois builds upon Governor Quinn’s commitment to enhancing business growth. The Advantage Illinois initiative is expected to generate a minimum of at least $10 in new private lending for small and medium-sized businesses for every $1 of federal funding, resulting in around $800 million of private sector investments and loans being pumped into the economy over the next few years. The Brookings Institution recently noted more than 95 percent of new jobs are derived from business expansions or start-up activity.

Administered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), funding for Advantage Illinois is being provided by the U.S. Treasury through the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), which was created as part of the American Small Business Jobs Act signed into law by President Obama in 2010.

“Through the IIVF, we are giving businesses a booster shot in the form of deploying new tools to ease the credit crunch they have experienced in recent years, improve the field of play and give Illinois companies an advantage against the competition,” said DCEO Director Warren Ribley. “We will continue to target investments in every area of the economy to help keep moving Illinois forward.”

Governor Quinn announced the first investments from the state’s new venture fund today at Chicago-based Excelerate Labs, a business incubator and accelerator for startups driven by proven entrepreneurs and investors. Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s aggressive business agenda that is helping move the Illinois economy forward. The state maintains a large portfolio of programs, which is designed to help Illinois businesses thrive in today’s economy. For more information, please visit www.ilbiz.biz.

 

###

 
Royal Neighbors names Kristin Lohse as 2011 Employee of the Year PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Lynnette Meincke   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 13:47
(ROCK ISLAND, IL)—Kristin Lohse, Davenport, IA, was presented the Royal Neighbors of America 2011 Employee of the Year Award by Cynthia Tidwell, President/CEO.

The award program was created to annually recognize an employee who demonstrates professionalism and integrity; shares knowledge and resources with others; embraces the organization’s mission; and goes above and beyond to respond to external and internal customers. Employees are nominated for this prestigious award by fellow co-workers. The award comes with a vacation package of Kristin’s choice, valued at up to $2,000, and three extra vacation days.

Kristin joined Royal Neighbors in 2010 as a marketing specialist. Her responsibilities include planning and managing the implementation of marketing projects involving branding, product management, research, advertising, member management, and distribution strategies.

“Kristin has been a great addition to our team,” said Ms. Tidwell. “Her strong work ethic, professionalism, and marketing expertise are a wonderful asset to our organization.”

Royal Neighbors of America, one of the nation’s largest women-led life insurance organizations, exists for the benefit of its members. It offers insurance products to fulfill financial needs of growth, savings, and protection. Members receive valuable benefits and can participate in volunteer activities through the organization's local chapters to help make a difference in their communities. The organization's philanthropic efforts are dedicated to changing women's lives through its national programs, including the Nation of NeighborsSM Program, and through the Royal Neighbors Foundation, a 501c(3) public charity.

Headquartered in Rock Island, IL, with branch offices in Mesa, AZ, and Austin, TX, Royal Neighbors serves more than 215,000 members and is licensed to do business in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

For more information about Royal Neighbors of America, call (800) 627-4762, or visit www.royalneighbors.org.

Picture: Kristin Lohse, Royal Neighbors of America 2011 Employee of the Year, at left, and Cynthia Tidwell, President/CEO of Royal Neighbors, at right.

 

END


 
C12 Group Celebrates 20 Years and Launches Six New C12 Groups Across the US PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Sandra Shumaker   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 13:38

Greensboro, NC – January 30, 2012— The C12 Group is celebrating its 20th year as America’s leading equipper of Christian chief executives through its peer CEO roundtables and cutting-edge business and ministry resources.  C12 was founded in 1992 by Buck Jacobs, a dedicated Christian CEO and author, who began working with business leaders that desired to “go deeper” in their businesses. For the last 20 years, Buck has witnessed the steady growth of new Chairs and members becoming part of C12.  He remarked, “The greatest blessing that I have in C12 is seeing and hearing how it serves and contributes to others.”

The C12 Group has grown to more than 1000 members in 100 groups and 75 metro areas across America.  In recent months, new C12 Groups have been launched in Albuquerque, Houston, Northern Virginia, Little Rock, Central Maryland and Central Wisconsin.  C12 Group members span from a wide variety of industries and range in size from $1 million to more than $1 billion in annual sales.   All of this started from one Christian CEO roundtable practice with three groups in the Tampa Bay area.  According to Don Barefoot, C12’s President and CEO, “C12 has been a source of blessing to more than 3000 Christian CEOs, Presidents and Owners, as well as an estimated 12 to 15 million stakeholders in these companies.”

Because of the growth of C12, Chairs and members are increasingly being sought for quotes by national publications and to speak at national conferences like the Dallas’ Right Now Conference in Nov. 2011 where Don Barefoot and a local Dallas-area C12 member spoke and the upcoming June 2012 Business Ethics Today Symposium in Philadelphia where Buck Jones is scheduled to speak.

The C12 Group was founded in 1992 by Buck Jacobs.  C12’s growing network of more than 100 groups in 75 metro areas across America and is comprised of Christian CEOs and business owners who are seeking to grow both professionally and spiritually through iron-sharpening-iron interaction with other like-minded chief executives.

#  #  #

 
The Erosion of Checks and Balances PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Business & Economy
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 31 January 2012 13:11

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee

The Erosion of Checks and Balances

Monday, January 30, 2011

One week ago today, I addressed the Senate on President Obama’s decision to bypass the Senate and the Constitution by making four “recess” appointments at a time when the President’s recess appointment power did not apply.  I explained in detail why the legal memo released by the Obama Administration attempting to justify President Obama’s actions did not hold legal water.  Last Thursday, I laid out the case that this is not an isolated incident or a technical legal squabble.  Rather, the President’s recent actions are part of a pattern of disregard for the constitutional system of checks and balances.  Today I would like to address why such criticisms are justified and why they are necessary.

First, is it legitimate for a U.S. Senator to criticize a legal opinion issued by the Office of Legal Counsel and the Senate confirmed head of that office?  I have no doubt that senators may criticize such opinions and, when the facts warrant, ask whether that office and its head are exercising the independence that is required for the Constitution to be upheld.  Some in the media apparently disagree.  They say that it is wrong for a senator to ever criticize a Senate confirmed official’s independence and judgment.  They say that all a senator can do is criticize the official’s substantive arguments.  Nonsense.  When the media makes these claims, it merely  seeks to divert attention from the weakness of the opinion’s actual conclusions and reasoning.

In my statement last week, I laid out my disagreements with the content of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion.  Of course, senators and administration officials can reach different conclusions on the law.  Each can have a reasonable point of view.  But that is not the case here.

If the Office of Legal Counsel is to be the “constitutional conscience of the administration” that some in the media characterize it to be, it must exercise a certain level of independence.  As I mentioned in my statement, when a President who takes an expansive view of his power asks Justice Department officials who  owe their job to him whether he has the constitutional or legal authority to take action, there is always the chance that pressure will overtake their responsibilities to provide their best legal judgment.  That is why at Ms. Seitz confirmation hearing and in follow up communications, we took such painstaking effort to give her the opportunity to state on the record her commitment to providing independent legal advice.  To make sure that she would place loyalty to the law and the Constitution above her loyalty to the President.

Ms. Seitz promised to act independently.  She promised not to stand idly by if she thought the Constitution was being violated.

The only way to tell whether the office has given independent advice – the only way to tell whether pressure has been resisted – is to review the arguments and reasoning that OLC provides.  The media cannot address whether criticism of the head of that office is independent and has used good judgment without such a review.  It is not enough that the media might agree with her conclusion.

In this case, the analysis in the Office of Legal Counsel opinion was so poor as to raise legitimate questions concerning judgment and independence.  The Office of Legal Counsel is supposed to give the President objective legal advice before he acts.  It is not supposed to provide a weakly thought out rationalization for a presidential decision to act that has already been made.  Here, the arguments in the opinion are so weak that a fair-minded person can question the independence and judgment of the opinion’s author.

For instance, the opinion is internally inconsistent.  It correctly recognizes that a president’s ability to make recess appointments turns on the capacity of the Senate to conduct business.  But in determining whether the pro forma sessions constitute a recess, the opinion does not consider at all the capacity of the Senate to conduct business and on what it could do.  Rather, it relies on what individual senators said.  And it ignores not only what theoretically the capacity the Senate had to act, but even its actual actions.

Similarly, the established meaning of “recess” is the same each time it appears in the Constitution.  Giving the term the same meaning means that the President can make recess appointments, but that this is a limited power.  The Office of Legal Counsel opinion, contrary to clearly established precedent, inconsistently defines the term “recess” differently when it is used in different parts of the Constitution.  The only thing consistent in the opinion is that it interprets “recess” each time in a way that expands the power of the President to make recess appointments, and in such a way as to leave open the question whether that power is limited in any meaningful way.

Former federal circuit judge Michael McConnell, himself a former Justice Department lawyer who has defended presidential power, found the arguments in the Office of Legal Counsel opinion to be so “implausible” that “[i]t is difficult to escape the conclusion that OLC is simply fashioning rules to reach the outcome it wishes.”  Since the outcome the Office of Legal Counsel wishes is to expand presidential power contrary to the text of the Constitution and also many decades of historical practice, it is quite fair to question the independence, judgment, and adherence to statements made during the confirmation process by the head of that office.

The media, again focused more on personalities than on substance, will say that the Bush Administration reached a similar conclusion, so how could Ms. Seitz be criticized?  First, President Bush did not make recess appointments when the Senate was in pro forma session.  Second, President Bush did not even claim that he could make such recess appointments, while declining to do so.  Third, his Office of Legal Counsel did not issue any opinion that would be binding on future Justice Department advice.

Unlike the public actions of the Senate confirmed head of OLC, a lower level official in the Bush Administration apparently wrote a secret memorandum to the file on this subject.  The existence of such a memorandum was not known until the Office of Legal Counsel opinion referred to it and sought to rely on it.  It is not possible to evaluate the reasoning of that memorandum because the Department of Justice has not agreed to release it despite my request that it do so.

If the Office of Legal Counsel is to exercise the independent judgment that is necessary for it to properly perform its functions, it cannot rely on secret memos from lower level officials.  That approach creates incentives for the Office of Legal Counsel heads to avoid accountability.  An incentive is created for the preparation of secret memoranda that make outlandish claims of presidential power.  No one knows of the memo, so its arguments do not face the transparency of public scrutiny.  The President and the Office of Legal Counsel take no responsibility for its conclusions.

Then the Office of Legal Counsel later issues a public opinion on the subject.  To bolster very weak arguments, it cites the earlier memo.  It avoids transparency as well, by keeping the memorandum secret, so no one can see that the opinion’s weak arguments may be supported by only other weak arguments.  And it avoids accountability by suggesting that this question was already decided, by an earlier Office of Legal Counsel.  Instantly, the number of administrations that support expanded presidential power goes from zero to two, neither one of which is said to be responsible for that expansion.  That bootstrapping can never lead to a reasoned, objective analysis of presidential power.  It cannot produce the independent Office of Legal Counsel that Ms. Seitz promised the Senate that she would provide.

The media has also made the strange argument that Ms. Seitz’s opinion must be professional and her judgment and independence cannot be questioned because of her high professional reputation.  This is backward.  The legitimacy of the arguments contained in a legal opinion is not established by the reputation of the person who wrote them.  Reputations are not static.   They are established by the quality of the professional work, not the other way around.

In the past, a Democratic prominent senator called for a judge to resign because of his legal work as Office of Legal Counsel head.  The Washington Post in an earlier editorial criticized the opinions of other Bush Administration OLC lawyers as displaying “the logic of criminal regimes” and “bringing shame to American democracy.”  If the Post truly believes that criticizing Office of Legal Counsel lawyers beyond the pale, they should retract their earlier opinion and condemn the far harsher rhetoric that was hurled against Bush Office of Legal Counsel lawyers.

Now I would like to explain why my criticisms were not just legitimate, but necessary.  Last Thursday, I laid out in great detail a long series of abuses of executive authority, and usurpations of legislative authority, by President Obama and his Administration.  In fact, he’s made his willingness to bypass Congress a campaign issue with slogans like “We can’t wait for Congress” splashed across the White House website.  President Obama has made the decision to run for re-election not on his record, for obvious reasons, but against Congress.  In doing so, he’s daring Congress to defend its role as the representative of Americans from each of the 50 states in the face of his unilateral agenda.

Some have suggested that this is a clever political trap laid by President Obama-that if Congress resists the President’s power grabs, it will validate his slogans and play into his electoral strategy.  That may or may not be true.  However, the stakes are greater than the next presidential election, and the implications of the President’s actions will be felt well beyond any short term political gain.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution foresaw the temptation by one branch of government to try to usurp the powers of others.  In Federalist 51, James Madison explained how the Constitution was designed to prevent power grabs through an ingenious system of checks and balances.  He wrote-

“But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

Of course, this assumes a desire on the part of each branch to guard its constitutionally granted powers.  If some members of Congress are not willing to resist an encroachment because they place party loyalty above their constitutional responsibilities, or if members are reluctant to push back for fear of political consequences, then the system of checks and balances will not work as intended.  All members of Congress swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  That is our first obligation.

I would like to be clear that this is not an argument about constitutional semantics, but one of fundamental principle.  As Madison explains in Federalist 51, the “separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government” is “essential to the preservation of liberty.”  This also goes beyond an argument about the ends to which President Obama has used the new powers he has claimed.  His agenda is controversial to be sure, or he would not have had to bypass Congress.  Still, even those who support this President’s policies should not be so quick to look the other way.  Once the walls separating the powers allotted to each branch of government are eroded, they will not easily be rebuilt.

The most eloquent expression of the philosophy on which our nation was founded is in the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”  Based on these fundamental principles, the Constitution laid out a form of government designed to protect individual rights by resisting the concentration of power.  This can be frustrating to those who would like a more activist government.  Still, these features of our Constitution perform an important role in preventing one faction of Americans from dominating another.

I am sure that President Obama is convinced that his agenda is what’s best for the country and that the ends justify the means in pursing that agenda.  Naturally, he doesn’t see any danger in concentrating power in the Presidency, because he believes he will use that power wisely.  Moreover, he has gone out of his way to identify himself with the school of thought that the constitutional separation of powers is an outdated barrier to change.

Last month, President Obama gave a speech in Kansas in which he sought to link his agenda to Teddy Roosevelt’s famous “New Nationalism” speech at the same place in 1910.  The original speech marked the beginning of Roosevelt’s break with many of his past policies and with the incumbent Republican president, William Howard Taft.  Roosevelt then went on to challenge Taft in the 1912 election on the Progressive Party ticket.

In the 1910 speech, which President Obama paid tribute to, Roosevelt described his New Nationalism as “…impatient of the impotence which springs from overdivision of governmental powers.”  He explained that his philosophy, “…regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare.”  The progressive view of the separation of powers was described at length in Woodrow Wilson’s Constitutional Government in which he writes, “The makers of the Constitution constructed the federal government upon a theory of checks and balances which was meant to limit the operation of each part and allow to no single part of organ of it a dominating force; but no government can be successfully conducted upon so mechanical a theory.  Leadership and control must be lodged somewhere…”  Of course, he determines that President is where this “leadership and control” should be lodged.

This philosophy seeks to fundamentally transform the United States from a nation founded on the principle that protecting the unalienable natural rights of each citizen is the paramount goal of government, to one that empowers an enlightened elite to take whatever actions they deem necessary to correct perceived wrongs in society.  This may start out with good intentions.  But, there is no guarantee that, once our constitutional protections are gone, future leaders will always act in the most enlightened way.  In fact, the single-minded pursuit of a better society at the expense of individual rights has led to some of history’s worst tyrannies.

Moreover, not only is a concentration of power in the Executive Branch contrary to the founding principles of our nation, it is foreign to the realities of American civic life.  With a country as large and diverse as ours, no one individual can claim to speak on behalf of all Americans.  Our constitutional system, based on federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances, helps ensure that each American has the opportunity to live their life as they see fit.  I return to the words of James Madison, “It is of great importance in a republic not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.”  The voices of all Americans deserve to be heard through their elected representatives in Congress.  That is what is at stake here.  Those of us who were elected to represent the people of our state should do just that or we don’t deserve to be here.

-30-


 
<< Start < Prev 181 182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 Next > End >>

Page 187 of 272