Obama un­leashes his lob­by­ists

Pre­pare for on­slaught of tax-funded ad­vo­cates for big­ger gov­ern­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - By Stephen De­maura

Washington has wrongly made tax­pay­ers foot the bill for thou­sands of egre­gious projects — tread­mills for shrimp, Jell-o-wrestling in Antarc­tica, a “Bridge to Nowhere” — but fund­ing lob­by­ists to ad­vo­cate for higher taxes, costly reg­u­la­tions and more egre­gious projects on the tax­payer’s dime is out-of-con­trol gov­ern­ment spend­ing at its worst.

In his 2013 bud­get pro­posal, Pres­i­dent Obama erased three crit­i­cal an­tilob­by­ing pro­vi­sions that pro­tect tax­pay­ers from fund­ing their own tax in­creases. With­out this lan­guage, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can more eas­ily use our tax dol­lars to pay lo­cal gov­ern­ments and third-party groups to hire lob­by­ists, ad­vo­cate pub­licly for a bill that will in­crease taxes, im­pose more gov­ern­ment over­sight and sti­fle in­di­vid­ual free­doms, us­ing such tools as tele­vi­sion and ra­dio ad­ver­tis­ing, pam­phlets, and pre­sen­ta­tions.

Gov­ern­ment agen­cies have al­ready found loop­holes in ex­ist­ing law that al­low for tax­payer-funded lob­by­ists, but re­mov­ing the pro­vi­sions as Mr. Obama’s 2013 bud­get does only gives an en­dorse­ment of such ma­nip­u­la­tive tac­tics.

Through the Preven­tion and Public Health Fund, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion (CDC) re­ceived a com­bined $1.1 bil­lion to cre­ate and lobby for strate­gies that would limit Amer­i­cans’ con­sump­tion of foods deemed un­healthy by pol­i­cy­mak­ers. The fund has been used to lobby for soda taxes, fast food mora­to­ria and to­bacco ex­cise in­creases.

As part of the pro­gram, the CDC al­lo­cated $1 mil­lion to Delaware to ed­u­cate lo­cal decision-mak­ers about the ben­e­fits of in­creas­ing the price, oth­er­wise known as rais­ing taxes, on to­bacco prod­ucts.

North Carolina was also awarded $7.5 mil­lion from the fund to ex­pand “ef­forts in to­bacco-free liv­ing, ac­tive liv­ing and healthy eat­ing, and qual­ity clin­i­cal and other pre­ven­tive ser­vices,” ac­cord­ing to the CDC. Though the grant’s stated pur­pose con­tains only vague in­struc­tions on how to use our tax­payer dol­lars, Pitt County, N.C., spent its share of the grant to change the rel­a­tive prices of healthy ver­sus un­healthy items in con­ve­nience stores.

The stim­u­lus pack­age sent even more money to lob­by­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Like the Preven­tion and Public Health Fund, the $650 mil­lion Com­mu­ni­ties Putting Preven­tion to Work pro­gram was ded­i­cated to chang­ing the con­sump­tion habits of Amer­i­cans. As part of the fed­eral project, the Dekalb County Board of Health in Ge­or­gia re­ceived $3.2 mil­lion to sup­port “pric­ing strate­gies” (i.e., tax in­creases) on to­bacco prod­ucts.

Waste­ful pro­grams like these rep­re­sent an ef­fort by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to ex­pand its au­thor­i­ta­tive reach on the tax­payer’s dol­lar. Whether ad­vo­cat­ing for higher prices on cer­tain foods or more taxes on to­bacco prod­ucts, tax­payer-funded lob­by­ing works to ma­nip­u­late how we live our ev­ery­day lives with lit­tle or no trans­parency.

Es­pe­cially as mil­lions of Amer­i­cans strug­gle to find work and our na­tional debt soars past $15 tril­lion, we can­not af­ford to have the gov­ern­ment work against us and lobby for more job-killing tax in­creases and gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress must re­align its pri­or­i­ties and fo­cus on pro-growth, pro-jobs poli­cies that put peo­ple back to work rather than add fuel to an ever-grow­ing Nanny State.

When the Found­ing Fa­thers con­structed our Con­sti­tu­tion, did they in­tend for Washington to dic­tate the type of prod­ucts we buy? No, they sought the op­po­site. Aim­ing to es­cape an op­pres­sive, over­reach­ing gov­ern­ment, our Found­ing Fa­thers worked to cre­ate a fed­eral sys­tem that em­braced in­di­vid­ual lib­erty and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Decision-mak­ers in Washington must work to­ward clos­ing the loop­holes on tax­payer-funded lob­by­ing, rather than en­dors­ing the prac­tice. It’s time to re­turn to our con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples, work to­ward de­fund­ing pro­grams that al­low the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to be the pup­pet-mas­ter of Amer­i­cans’ per­sonal decision-mak­ing pro­cesses, and fo­cus our tax­payer dol­lars on projects that cre­ate jobs, spark eco­nomic growth and limit the size and scope of gov­ern­ment.

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