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Tax Day: Is America Doing Right By Taxpayers?
Posted by on April 15, 2014

Today is Tax Day – the deadline for Americans to pay the piper.  For many taxpayers, today brings to mind the same questions year after year.  Where do my tax dollars go?  And, is my hard-earned money being put to good use?

 This year, Americans will pay $3 trillion in federal taxes and $1.5 trillion in state taxes.  That’s 30.2 percent of total income and more than all American families spend on food, clothing, and housing combined.  In 2014, it will take exactly 111 days of work for Americans to collectively pay their taxes – that’s three more additional days than it took last year. 

However, we have seen clearly that raising taxes does not produce a better economy, more jobs, or a higher quality of life for most Americans.  The nation’s tax burden has become a heavy load on American families, and it’s time for relief.  Relief can start from reforming our broken tax system.
 
For most people, tax season comes with feelings of frustration, confusion, and financial stress – partly because Americans are facing rates as high as 44.6 percent due to new taxes in Obamacare, and partly because the tax code is far too complex. 

Wonder why it’s so complicated?  In the past ten years, there have been 4,400 changes to our tax code.  That adds up to more than 1 change per day.  Because of burdensome IRS paperwork, receipt filing, and unnecessary complexities in the law, the American taxpayer spends nearly 13 hours filing his/her personal taxes – that is if they can do it themselves.  Approximately two thirds of Americans and nearly nine out of every ten small business owners hire tax professionals to file their returns.  Every American should be able to understand how the tax code affects his/her personal financial situation without relying on outside experts.

Clearly, it is a broken system in much need of reform.  The American people deserve a fairer, simpler tax code that can be understood and that allows taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money.  For this reason, I am a co-sponsor of the Fair Tax Act, which repeals the income, employment, estate, and gift taxes and instead institutes a national sales tax.   A simpler, fairer tax code with lower and flatter rates will minimize burdens on American families, businesses, and individuals and plant our country on firmer financial footing.  We must never forget that the government is here to serve the people – not the other way around.

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Getting to the bottom of Benghazi - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on April 11, 2014
I continue to receive letters, phone calls, and emails from folks asking for the truth about Benghazi.  Setting the facts straight is important to our national security and to ensure this never happens again.  We owe it to the Americans who lost their lives, their families, and those who continue to bravely serve today.  They deserve the whole truth, our complete support, and the assurance that their government has their best interests in mind.
 
Congress will continue to hold hearings until we get to the bottom of Benghazi.  Just recently, the House Intelligence Committee had former Deputy Director of the CIA, Mike Morrell, testify publicly about editing the Administration's talking points regarding what happened on the ground.  Click here to view my questions at the hearing.

In this edition of my video mailbox, I will answer some of the concerns and questions that I have heard and read from the people in our part of Texas about Benghazi.

As I mentioned in the video, if you want to see the facts for yourself, please visit www.gop.gov/benghazi/ to view collected transcripts and other documents.
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BLOG: The value of common sense
Posted by on January 07, 2014
The cold weather across much of the country reminds me of a point made by the speaker at the Amarillo Community Prayer Breakfast this year.  
He spoke about growing up on a ranch and how that experience leads one to understand that there are consequences to our actions.  If you don’t cut the ice, the horses can’t drink.  If you don’t fix the fence, the cattle will get out.

It sounds simple.  Most of us call it common sense.

But as someone told me one time, “the thing about common sense in Washington is that it is not very common.”

I think of those things when reading a column by Peggy Noonan that talks about President Obama and common sense.  She points out that he has had very little experience with concrete, tangible things.  His life has been lived with words, and he somehow seems to think that if he speaks the words, it automatically happens.  Things on a ranch don’t work that way.  Talking does not get the job done, and in many situations, the fewer words spoken the better.

Noonan goes on to say that the Administration seems full of people who have seen the movie but never read the book.  They talk in sound bites, worry what the political effects may be, but never really dig down into the substance to fix a problem.  They don’t worry about the complexities or think that something may not turn out just like they imagine it; they spout out movie lines.

The health care bill may have sounded good but in reality has been a mess.  And it will get worse.

I probably did not always appreciate the lessons I was learning on those freezing cold days cutting ice or on those searing hot days digging post holes.  But, in any job, learning basic common sense is invaluable.

Please click here to view the Peggy Noonan article.
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MAC'S BLOG: A thought about last week
Posted by on November 26, 2013
All of the attention given to the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination last week brings to mind his call in his Inaugural Address to, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  It was hopeful, positive,  idealistic – calling for the best in each of us.

The other major news item last week was none of those things, and it happened in the United States Senate.  I have never completely understood the rules by which the Senate operates.  Sometimes I have been frustrated when a bill passed by the House gets held up by a minority of the Senate.  At other times, I have been glad when a bill I oppose gets slowed down.  But it seems like something significant changed for the worse when Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through an alteration in Senate rules to make it easier for the Democratic majority to confirm President Obama’s judicial and executive nominees.

Three Democratic Senators voted against the rules change, concerned with the effects it would have on the Senate as an institution going forward.  I worry that there seems to be fewer people who pay attention to the institutions of our society.  And yet it is those institutions of government – the House, the Senate, the Presidency, the courts – and those non-governmental institutions – the church, charities, civil clubs – that help our nation weather the challenges facing us.

The idea that there is something bigger, more important, and more lasting than our preferences and positions at the moment seems foreign to some folks.  One of the reasons that Washington is so polarized right now is that, for some people, it is all politics all of the time.  That is one of the major problems I have with President Obama.  He makes little effort to bring the country together.  And one of the results of that overly-political approach is the deeply flawed health care bill, forced throughCongress without a single Republican vote.

Whatever history may say about President Kennedy’s three years in office, part of his legacy is the call to care about something bigger – to put the country ahead of ourselves.  It is a good reminder to us all that we can do far better than we are doing now.
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The latest on the shutdown
Posted by on October 05, 2013
Dear Friend,
 
True to form, most media reports place blame for the government shutdown totally with House Republicans.  As with any dispute, neither side is blameless, and there is plenty of fault to go around.  But given the bias of the media, it may be helpful to step back and review where we are.
 
The federal government’s fiscal year ends on September 30 every year.  Congress and the President must agree on funding to continue to operate the discretionary programs in the federal budget beyond that date.  Those programs make up about one-third of federal spending with the largest portion being military programs.
 
The other two-thirds of federal spending is mandatory or entitlement programs, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, and the end of the fiscal year does not affect them.  They continue indefinitely until a new law is passed that changes those programs.
 
The vast majority of the funding for the new health care law, known as Obamacare, is mandatory spending and is therefore unaffected by a government shutdown.  That is the reason that the health care exchanges under Obamacare opened as scheduled on October 1, even though the government shutdown had begun.  There are, of course, a host of problems already evident.
 
Normally, Congress would pass twelve individual bills to fund the various agencies starting October 1.  This year, the House passed four of them before October 1, and the Senate passed none.  In the absence of the individual funding bills, Congress and the President agree on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue government operations at the current level of funding.  Sometimes the CR can last several months until the funding levels for the individual programs are settled.
 
The House passed a CR on September 20 to fund government programs until December 15, 2013, and included a provision to defund Obamacare.  The Senate voted to remove the Obamacare section.
 
The House passed another CR just after midnight on September 29, which again funds discretionary programs until December 15 and delayed for one year all of Obamacare, including the new taxes it imposes.  That bill also repealed the new medical device tax.  The House passed a separate measure that requires military salaries to be paid on time even if other discretionary programs are not funded.
 
The Senate rejected the funding bill and passed the military pay bill, which the President signed into law.
 
On September 30, the House passed another bill to fund the government with a one year delay of the individual mandate under Obamacare, the President having already delayed the business mandate, and also a provision that requires Members of Congress and the top political appointees in the Executive Branch to get their health insurance through the exchanges without any employer contribution.  The Senate rejected that measure as well on a party-line vote.
 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama have both said that they will not negotiate.  In fact, a “senior administration official” is quoted in many newspapers as saying,  "We are winning...It doesn't really matter to us" how long the shutdown lasts "because what matters is the end result." 

According to the Washington Post, there have been 17 government shutdowns since the modern budget process was instituted in 1976.  Most of them lasted just a few days, although some went on for a few weeks.  It appears, however, that never before have open-air monuments like the Lincoln Memorial been barricaded off from the public.  There are numerous indications that the Obama Administration is trying to make this shutdown as painful and as dramatic as possible.
 
With the Senate rejection of all of the House-passed funding measures, the House has begun passing individual, targeted funding bills.  For example, one bill funds the national parks; one funds the Veterans Administration; another the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  One bill requires that all federal workers receive full pay for any time they are furloughed.  So far, the House has passed seven of these targeted bills and more are to come, including funding for the Border Patrol, the nuclear weapons complex, and the National Weather Service.
 
We are also rapidly approaching another deadline.  The Treasury Department has announced that the United States will reach the debt limit on around October 17.  Once the debt limit is reached, the government cannot borrow more money, even to pay benefits of entitlements like Social Security.  The President has also said that he will not negotiate any issue connected with the debt limit.  He wants the borrowing authority raised without cutting spending or without a start on balancing the budget.
 
With both government funding and the debt limit, there are two primary issues where there are significant differences.  One is Obamacare.  A majority in the House believes that this law will do significant damage to the country when it fully takes effect on January 1, 2014, and we want to prevent that damage.  President Obama and a majority in the Senate do not want to change it.
 
The other major issue is the budget.  The House wants to make reforms that set the government on the path toward a balanced budget.  We want to replace the across-the-board cuts inflicted by sequestration, which are not really across-the-board but rather are limited to only certain programs, with targeted savings in high growth programs.  I am particularly concerned about the damage that sequestration is doing and will continue to do to our national defense.
 
I cannot predict what will happen over the next week to ten days.  I do not see how anyone, including the President, can demand to get his way and refuse to negotiate.  With a Republican majority in the House, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and Barack Obama in the White House, no one will get everything he or she wants.  But there must be a way forward.
 
My staff reminded me of a well-known quote from Winston Churchill,
 
“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise.  Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I invite you to learn more about this issue and others by visiting my website here. Have a question you would like answered?  Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail,on Facebook, or on Twitter.
 
As always, I appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,


                          
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Potential Shutdown: Where we are and how we got here
Posted by on September 30, 2013
With all of the talk related to a government shutdown, now might be a good time to review where we are and how we got here.

The federal government’s fiscal year ends on September 30 every year.  Congress and the President must agree on funding to continue to operate the discretionary programs in the federal budget beyond that date.  Those programs make up about one-third of federal spending with the largest portion being military programs.

The other two-thirds of federal spending is mandatory or entitlement programs, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Food Stamps, and the end of the fiscal year does not affect them.  They continue indefinitely until a new law is passed that changes those programs (The vast majority of the funding for the new health care law, known as Obamacare, is mandatory spending and is therefore unaffected by a government shutdown).

Funding for programs in the one-third of the budget that is known as discretionary programs expires at midnight on September 30.  Congress and the President must agree on funding measures for them to continue to operate, and that is normally done through twelve individual funding bills.  So far this year, the House has passed four of those bills; the Senate has passed none.

In the absence of the individual funding bills, Congress and the President agree on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to continue government operations at the current level of funding.  Sometimes the CR can last several months until the funding levels for the individual programs are settled.

The House passed a CR on September 20.  It would fund government programs until December 15, 2013, and included a provision to defund Obamacare.  The Senate voted to remove the Obamacare section.

The House passed another CR just after midnight on September 29, which again funds discretionary programs until December 15 and delays all of Obamacare, including the new taxes it imposes, for one year.  That bill also repeals the new medical device tax.  The House passed a separate measure that requires military salaries to be paid on time even if other discretionary programs are not funded.

As of noon on September 30, the Senate has not acted on that bill, although Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that they will reject it.  The President has repeatedly said he will not negotiate.  If a spending measure is not passed and a portion of the government shuts down, I will have more specific information on my website about what will be affected and what will not.

According to the Washington Post, there have been 17 government shutdowns since the modern budget process was instituted in 1976.  Most of them last just a few days, although some went on for a few weeks.  Most of them occurred when government was divided between the parties, but an interesting historical note is that five of them occurred when Jimmy Carter was President and Democrats controlled the House, Senate, and White House.

In a little more than two weeks, there will be another deadline.  The Treasury Department has announced that the United States will reach the debt limit on around October 17.  Once the debt limit is reached, the government cannot borrow more money, even to pay benefits of entitlements like Social Security.  At this point, it looks like the House will not pass a debt limit bill until the CR dispute is resolved.

In both the CR and the debt limit, there are two primary issues where there are significant differences.  One is Obamacare.  A majority in the House believes that this law will do significant damage to the country when it fully takes effect on January 1, 2014, and we want to prevent that damage.  President Obama and a majority in the Senate do not want to change it.

The other major issue is the budget.  The House wants to make reforms that set the government on the path toward a balanced budget.  We want to replace the across-the-board cuts inflicted by sequestration, which are not really across-the-board but rather are limited to only certain programs, with targeted savings in high growth programs.  I am particularly concerned about the damage that sequestration is doing and will continue to do to our national defense.

At this point, I cannot say how these differences will be resolved.  It is irresponsible for anyone, especially the President of the United States, to say that he will not negotiate or compromise.  With a Republican majority in the House, a Democratic majority in the Senate, and Barack Obama in the White House, no one will get everything he or she wants.  The best interests of the country must always come before politics.  Stay tuned for further updates.

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The Effort to Stop ObamaCare Will Continue - Mac's Video Mailbox September 25, 2013
Posted by on September 25, 2013
Dear Friend,

I continue to receive many letters, phone calls, and emails from folks about Obamacare.  It is by far the number one issue that people are calling and writing into my offices about.  Folks all over our district want to know what we can do to prevent it.  In this edition of my video mailbox, I want to answer some of the questions and concerns that I have heard and read from people in our part of Texas about Obamacare. 

Stopping the President’s health care law has been a priority in the House since the day the Democrats forced the bill through the Congress over the objections of the American people.  The House has tried a variety of approaches—complete repeal, dismantling it piece by piece, delaying the law, and defunding it.  We continue to look for any way to get the job done, and halting the law is at the heart of any debate concerning government funding, sequestration, or raising the debt limit.

Let me know what you think about the issue by sharing your opinion here. I hope you'll tune in to this edition by clicking the image below and keep the questions coming.



Clickhereto watch the video in a new window


Have you missed an edition? Click an image
above to select a previous edition of the
video mailbox.

I invite you to learn more about this issue and others by visiting my website here. Have a question you would like answered?  Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail,on Facebook, or on Twitter.
 
As always, I appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,




*Please note, this email was sent from an unattended mailbox.*  

eNewsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Mac's Blog | YouTube | Video Mailbox

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Berlin, Putin, and Mush
Posted by on August 08, 2013

I recently finished reading a book titled, Berlin 1961, by Frederick Kempe.  It was the story of the people and events that led up to one of the most serious confrontations of the Cold War.  In fact, some argue that we were closer to nuclear war over Berlin than we were during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

We now know not only what was going on in the White House and the Kennedy administration.  We also know what was going on in the Kremlin and with Khrushchev through documents that have been released and interviews with key players.  Seeing both sides of the story gives us fascinating insight into one of the most dangerous periods of recent American history.

What is clear to the author is that Khrushchev saw Kennedy as weak and indecisive.  Under political pressure at home, Khrushchev took advantage of Kennedy’s perceived waffling and inexperience to provoke the crisis and then to build the Berlin Wall to prevent the exodus of people fleeing communism.

Lenin is quoted as saying that to advance a cause, “Probe with a bayonet: if you meet steel, stop. If you meet mush, then push.”  Khrushchev felt he met mush and pushed.  I wonder if Putin feels the same way today.

President Obama put a big emphasis on resetting relations with Russia.  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously took a big reset button with her to Moscow, which had the wrong Russian word written on it.  President Obama himself was caught by microphones whispering to then Russian President Medvedev in 2012 to ask Putin to give him some “space” and that “after my election I will have more flexibility.”

After backing out of missile defense agreements with Eastern European allies and signing a new arms control treaty with Russia, Obama clearly wants to cut nuclear weapons even further, possibly even unilaterally.  Little is said by the Obama Administration on Putin’s crackdown on domestic opponents.

It is no wonder if Putin believes that he has encountered mush, so he grants asylum to Edward Snowden, who is responsible for what may be the largest intelligence disaster in American history.  All President Obama can do is cancel his meeting with Putin in protest.  Putin will continue to push.  When will he meet steel?

President Obama would do well to take the advice of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier this year, “don’t worry so much about being loved.  Just be strong.”


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Stopping Obama's Blizzard of Regulations - Mac's Video Mailbox
Posted by on July 29, 2013
Dear Friend,
 
I continue to receive many letters, phone calls, and emails from folks about the blizzard of regulations we have seen from the Obama Administration.  It seems that there is no aspect of our lives that Washington is not trying to reach into and regulate.  This week the House will be voting on ten different bills meant to reduce or prevent much of this overreach by the federal government.
 
In this edition of my video mailbox, I want to answer some of the questions and concerns that I have heard and read from people in our part of Texas about this important issue.  You can watch by clicking the image below.




Click here to watch the video in a new window


Have you missed an edition? Click an image
above to select a previous edition of the
video mailbox.

You can read brief summaries of the bills we will be considering this week in our effort to reduce and stop many of these regulations.
 
H.R. 2009, Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act –Would prevent the IRS from implementing any portion of Obamacare.
 
H.R. 367, Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act – Requires Congressional approval of regulations that cost over $100 million.
 
H.R. 2711, Citizen Empowerment Act – Ensures that individuals have the right to record their meetings and telephone exchanges with federal regulatory officials engaged in enforcement activities and requires that individuals be notified of such right.
 
H.R. 2579, Government Employee Accountability Act –Allows agencies to place employees on unpaid leave when they are under investigation for certain serious offense (Currently, senior federal officials under investigation for misconduct can only be put on paid leave).
 
H.R. 1660, Government Customer Service Improvement Act – Requires agencies to adopt customer service standards and to use customer service feedback in agency and personnel reviews.
 
H.R. 313, Government Spending Accountability Act –Increases transparency with respect to taxpayer funded conferences, places limits on federal conferences, and requires agency head approval for the most expensive conferences.
 
H.R. 1541, Common Sense in Compensation Act – Would place limits on the size of bonuses but also limit the number of senior agency employees who may receive bonuses in any given year.
 
H.R. 2565, Stop Targeting Our Politics IRS Act – Would provide for the termination of employment of IRS employees who use their official position for political purposes.
 
H.R. 2769, Stop Playing on Citizen's Cash Act – Imposes a moratorium on IRS conferences until the IG’s recommendations are implemented.
 
H.R. 2768, The Taxpayer Bill of Rights - Amends the authorizing law that creates the position of IRS Commissioner to make clear that it is the duty of the Commissioner to ensure that Internal Revenue Service employees are familiar with and act in accord with certain enumerated taxpayer rights, including a right to privacy and confidentiality.
 
I invite you to learn more about this issue and others by visiting my website here. Have a question you would like answered?  Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail,on Facebook, or on Twitter.
 
As always, I appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,


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Real Immigration Reform Begins with Border Security - Video Mailbox
Posted by on July 12, 2013

Dear Friend,

I have received many phone calls, letters, and emails recently about immigration reform. In this edition of my video mailbox, I want to answer some of the questions and concerns that I have heard and read from people in our part of Texas about this important issue. 

America is a nation of immigrants, and a nation of laws.  It is clear that our immigration system is broken and that reform is vital to our country’s national security and economic future.  But a rush to pass immigration reform just for the sake of doing so would be foolish.  So the House will not be taking up the massive, comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate.   For any proposal to pass the House, it will have to make America stronger and safer.

In my view, there are four key issues that must be addressed to accomplish that goal:

1. Securing our borders and enforcing our laws;

2. Fixing our legal immigration system to attract and keep highly skilled and highly trained immigrants in the U.S. workforce;

3. The need for a guest worker program for those who want to come here for a limited time to work;

4. Addressing what happens to the approximately 10 to 12 million people who are already here illegally in a way that is fair to everyone and does not encourage more illegal immigration - blanket amnesty is not an option.

Continue reading below...


Click here to watch the video in a new window


Have you missed an edition? Click an image
above to select a previous edition of the
video mailbox.

Without controlling the borders, other attempts to set immigration policy are useless.  We have to control who and what comes across our borders, but we also have to be able to enforce the laws inside our country, and real reform will help make that possible.  It means that we need to improve the verification system for employers and ensure that illegal immigrants do not receive benefits meant for citizens. 

Any immigration reform must benefit our nation.  It should stop illegal immigration and also improve our legal immigration system.   The current process for people who want to follow the law and immigrate here legally is a nightmare.  It discourages highly educated, highly skilled workers from joining our workforce after graduating from American universities, and it encourages people to overstay their student or tourist visas with little consequence.  

In fact, about 40 percent of illegal immigrants in our country are those who came here legally with a visa but stayed after their visas expired.  We should replace the random lottery system that brings 55,000 people to the United States each year with a system that is designed to attract foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees into the American workforce.

To discourage the illegal immigration of those who simply want to work in the U.S. for a limited time, we need a guest worker program.  If done properly, American farmers and businesses can benefit from a strong labor force and so can the individuals and their families who come here to work temporarily. 

Once we have taken the necessary steps to secure our border and enforce our laws, we will ultimately have to decide how to deal with the 10 to 12 million people who are already in the U.S. illegally in a way that makes sense.  I oppose any type of blanket amnesty, and as I have said before, we must manage immigration in a way that promotes our national interests.  That will continue to be my goal in working on this important issue. 

I invite you to learn more about this issues by watching this edition of the video mailbox. Have a question you would like answered?  Please contact me by phone, letter, e-mail,on Facebook, or on Twitter.
 
As always, I appreciate hearing from you.

Sincerely,


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