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Ethanol, taxes and swipe fees

The battle over corn ethanol in our fuel rages on. And if you haven’t fired a shot, today is your day because tomorrow will be too late.

Here’s the scoop: The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed the first-ever reduction in the amount of corn ethanol being blended into gas for 2014. It proposes to keep ethanol levels for 2014 at 2013 levels. It’s reasonable, sensible and justifiable. But you’d think they shot the sheriff by the outpouring of objections pouring in from the ethanol producers decrying EPA’s common-sense proposal.

Today is the last day EPA is accepting comments on the proposal. The marine industry, and boaters in general, must make their voices heard by expressing support for the EPA’s proposal. Yes, on this one, boating supports EPA.

Please, right now, take just a few minutes to email the EPA in support of the proposal. The National Marine Manufacturers Association has provided an easy-to-use link for you. Just go to this website and follow the instructions. Most of the work is done for you. Just say you support the EPA proposal.


I shake my head at how politicians and bureaucrats can claim to support America’s small businesses while giving us the shaft. The latest comes out of the Affordable Care Act. It’s an insurance tax on health premiums that clearly targets small business.

This insurance tax, effective Jan. 1, is called a “fee” by the IRS. “If it walks like a duck . . .” well, you know. It functions like an excise tax on premiums. But not on everyone: check out the exclusions and guess who is left.

In November, the IRS published regulations that exclude "any entity that is a self-insured employer to the extent that such employer self-insures its employees' health risks." Fact: since about four of five employers with more than 500 workers along with nearly all union-negotiated health plans are self-insured, they are all conveniently exempt. So is insurance of "government entities," such as original Medicare.

Bottom line: most gold-plated public, private and labor plans have been exempted. So the tax (I mean “fee”) burden will clearly fall on those who work for small businesses, are self-employed and on individuals.

This blows me away. The administration claims the “fee” will be picked up by the insurers. Yeah, that’s about as likely as today’s teenagers craving Barry Manilow albums. Why, even the Congressional Budget Office says the tax will be "largely passed through to consumers in the form of higher premiums" and "would ultimately raise insurance premiums by a corresponding amount."

This is blatant political selectivity, nothing more. Moreover, it’s estimated this tax at $100 billion over 10 years will top even the Obamacare taxes on medical devices and drugs combined.

Swipe fees

Talking about battles raging on, the great “swipe fee showdown” between the nation’s retailers and the Federal Reserve took place 10 days ago in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The three-judge panel listened to arguments in the Federal Reserve's appeal of Judge Richard Leon's July 31 decision finding for retailers and striking down the debit card swipe fee rules.

According to some observers, the judges appeared to favor the Fed during the hour-long appearance. The three-member panel seemed to push back against the retailers' argument that the Fed's fee cap could only incorporate certain costs to banks that were identified by Congress.

"You're climbing a really steep hill ... none of us buy that," Judge Harry Edwards said. That aside, the panel did appear more open to discussing whether each of the particular costs the Fed allows banks to charge merchants was, indeed, appropriate. The court will now consider a ruling without a timetable. At stake could be billions of dollars banks would have to return to retailers and billions more in future fees charged.



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