Americans from all sectors of society use the Internet for social and economic reasons. Many use it as a means of climbing the economic ladder. That’s why every American has a vested interest in the debate in Washington over the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) and the Internet sales tax (IST).
ITFA, a moratorium on discriminatory state and local taxes on the Internet (i.e. “email taxes”), is something Americans on both sides of the aisle and opposite ends of the political spectrum support.
Some lawmakers are trying to hold the moratorium hostage until they can attach to it a very unpopular tax on Internet sales, the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). The MFA would allow states to require out-of-state retailers to collect and remit their sales taxes, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in the state.
Before ITFA’s passage in 1998, 10 states had imposed taxes on Internet usage. Over the past 16 years, Congress has renewed the moratorium four times, most recently in 2007, which means the moratorium is constantly under threat of not being continued should revenue-hungry lawmakers get their way. This year, the House passed a bill by unanimous voice vote extending the moratorium indefinitely, but the Senate failed to do the same, instead extending ITFA only until Dec. 11, 2014.
Conservative accountability goes beyond casting a vote. Building a society in which freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and the civil society flourish requires a sustained effort. That is why we have compiled a non-exhaustive list of upcoming townhalls, all of which provide excellent opportunities to discuss important issues with members of Congress.
Make sure to visit the Heritage Action Dashboard and check with the local district offices prior to attending your local meeting.
“I call, write, and email my members of Congress all the time and I never get a real answer from the staff or intern who answers the phone. I don’t see the point in contacting them and wasting my time. I feel like because I never get an answer, my voice is never heard.”
Does this sound familiar?
It is important to know that regardless of whether a staff member gives you a definitive answer, your ideas and concerns are being heard.
Here is what typically happens when you call a Congressional office.
The staff member will answer the phone and take note of your concern. Pithy, fact-based inquires about where your representative stands will always go further than yelling or resorting to abusive comments. If the staff member reveals very little information on where the representative stands on an issue, do not lose hope. Your voice has been heard.
Throughout the day, a staff member will receive hundreds of calls and emails on a variety of topics. Staffs update and maintain a quick tally on the most talked about issues. Depending on the quantity of those constituent interactions, the member of Congress, Chief of Staff, or Legislative Director will identify concerns that are also most important to a district. If a certain issue reaches a particularly high volume of call-ins, a member will have no choice but to defend his or her position and issue a response.
Now you might be saying, “Well I track their actions in Congress, contact them on issues that they will be voting on, and still I receive no answer.” This means more inquires about these issues are needed. New names and addresses flowing into their offices raises the level of concern for those members. The staff will assume constituents are becoming increasingly educated on these issues and that the grassroots in their district is organized and motivated. When members lack control over the narrative in their district, they know the status quo has been threatened.
All jobs require persistence and dedication to achieve a successful outcome. Congressional accountability is no different. Calling, emailing, writing – these are all critical in the fight for lasting accountability.
With the food stamp and farm becoming a “partisan flash point
” on the campaign trail, it is worth highlighting why so many conservatives opposed the typically bipartisan bill.
Promised reforms to the food stamp program, which comprises roughly 80 percent of the bill’s total spending, are falling predictably short:
THEN: The conference report lacks serious reforms. While it does close the “heat-and-eat” loophole, it does not contain a repeal of broad-based categorical eligibility and states are able to completely bypass asset tests for food stamp applicants. Additionally, states will be able to continue receiving waivers to undo what minimal work requirements were in place. (Heritage Action, Jan. 2014)
NOW: Cuts to the nation’s food stamp program enacted this year are only affecting four states, far from the sweeping overhaul that Republicans had pushed, an Associated Press review has found. As a result, it’s unclear whether the law will realize the estimated $8.6 billion in savings over 10 years that the GOP had advertised. … Among the 16 states that allow the practice or some form of it, 12 governors have taken steps to avoid the food stamp cuts. (Associated Press, Sep. 2014)
Same goes for the farm portion of the farm bill:
On September 30th, the U.S. Export-Import Bank is scheduled to expire. Conservatives across the country have united against this cronyist institution, and the movement has spread to mainstream Americans. Also on September 30th, funding for some of the federal government expires, creating the need for a temporary funding bill. This Continuing Resolution, or CR, has become a vehicle for all kinds of policy, from Ex-Im to a key component of Obama’s new Syria “strategy.” Conservatives are rightly opposed to the CR for both process and policy reasons.
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