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The Spending Proposals in Obama's Agenda for a Possible 2nd Term
Over the course of this election season, NTUF has completed several candidate agenda analyses. In the course of our research, we look for any spending-related issues and policies that candidates are promising to work on if elected. After conducting these studies over several election cycles now, we've found that incumbent politicians running for re-election or a new seat will often highlight their record rather than what they intend to do. President Obama had been facing criticism for this, even though he did highlight a number of issues on his campaign website. He eventually put out a pamphlet with some additional policy proposals. NTUF has not analyzed an incumbent President's agenda because his Administration is responsible for putting out a detailed budget with plans and projections for a ten-year period. The latest budget projections were released in the Fiscal Year 2013 Midsession Review: Budget of the U.S. Government.
Given the questions about his possible second term agenda, I took a look at the spending proposals that Obama has highlighted on his campaign website and in the new pamphlet. With one exception, these are all proposals that the President has previously introduced in his budget. The one item I hadn't heard from the Administration before is a call to open up areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration and development.
Below are the highlights and, where possible, annualized cost estimates for the President's campaign issues. The estimates either came from the Administration's own budget documents or Congressional Budget Office estimates for related legislation that has been scored in NTUF's BillTally program. BillTally tracks the cost of bills sponsored or cosponsored by each Member of Congress. A more detailed document, including links to the President's quotations and to the sources for all of the cost estimates, is available here. A look at the President's "deficit reduction plan" will follow in a separate blog post. [Update: an attempt to track down the numbers in the "$4 trillion deficit reduction plan" is available here.]
Economy, Transportation, and Infrastructure:
Education, Science, and Research:
Energy, Agriculture, and the Environment:
Homeland Security and Law Enforcement:
See here for complete documentation and sources.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: October 24, 2012
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU’s Pete Sepp weighs in on the various proposals for altering state income taxes depending upon who wins the Presidential election on November 6th.
The Daily Finance has the scoop on an array of new taxes associated with the implementation of ObamaCare, two of which will take place within the next few months.
NTUF crunched the numbers on the two Wisconsin Senate candidates’ spending proposals, finding an astounding $1.3 trillion separates Tammy Baldwin from Tommy Thompson.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
In the Fight Over Defense Cuts, Taxpayers Are the Real Losers
When it comes to defense, much of the rhetoric surrounding this issue, both in the Virginia senate race where defense contractors are a major source of employment for citizens of the state, and in the Presidential race, has focused on the potential effects of pending sequester cuts that will take $55 billion off the top of the current $562 baseline budget on January 3.
Unfortunately, by focusing solely on potential job losses (sincerely unfortunate though they would be), the larger more serious problem of the entrenched military-industrial complex, that a departing President Eisenhower so famously warned us about, and the enormous waste associated with the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy has been largely ignored.
For years, NTU has maintained a steady drum beat against costly, wasteful, and all too often unnecessary projects and programs. These include the risky and highly experimental IIB version of the Standard Missile-3, the costly Medium Extended Air Defense System, the superfluous F-35 joint strike fighter engine, the unreliable V-22 Osprey, and the similarly beleaguered F-35B aircraft - just to name a few!
At a time of record spending and debt, with tough cuts looming just over the horizon, it can be hard to understand why programs with obvious, severe flaws that make little budgetary or strategic sense aren’t simply discontinued. This article from CNN, “Army to Congress: Thanks, but no Tanks,” articulates just how wasteful some defense spending can be, and just how hard it is to change:
CNN was allowed rare access to what amounts to a parking lot for more than 2,000 M-1 Abrams tanks. Here, about an hour's drive north of Reno, Nevada, the tanks have been collecting dust in the hot California desert because of a tiff between the Army and Congress.
The U.S. has more than enough combat tanks in the field to meet the nation's defense needs - so there's no sense in making repairs to these now, the Army's chief of staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told Congress earlier this year.
If the Pentagon holds off repairing, refurbishing or making new tanks for three years until new technologies are developed, the Army says it can save taxpayers as much as $3 billion.
But guess which group of civilians isn't inclined to agree with the generals on this point?
To be exact, 173 House members - Democrats and Republicans - sent a letter April 20 to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, urging him to continue supporting their decision to produce more tanks.
That's right. Lawmakers who frequently and loudly proclaim that presidents should listen to generals when it comes to battlefield decisions are refusing to take its own advice.
You need to read the whole thing. The article goes on to describe the toxic combination of deep-seated special interests, campaign donations, and jobs that are spread out through as many congressional districts as possible for maximum influence. As former NTU staff member Andrew Moylan put it back in July:
The Defense Appropriations bill before the House this week spends $3.1 billion more than was even requested by military leaders. When you're outspending the wishes of budget-hungry bureaucrats, that's a serious problem.
It’s clear that despite the obvious problems and even more obvious opportunities to save money without negatively impacting our national security, there’s a serious lack of political will to enact the real reforms that are so urgently needed.
Sadly, when big government and big business collude in this manner it’s the taxpayers who end up on the hook for things like the 2,000 tanks gathering dust in the desert. And while it’s true that halting the pointless production of ever more unwanted tanks and other machines will mean a loss of jobs, what the candidates aren’t talking about it the increased prosperity that can flourish in other areas when funds aren’t so dramatically misallocated. Cutting spending means less borrowing and debt, decreasing the enormous drag on our economy. If taxpayers don’t have to shell out for a fighter jet engine we don’t need, that’s money that will still do enormous economic good, that has untold potential.
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Pentagon's Bad Bookkeeping Helps GAO Scoop Ig Noble Prize
Each year, the creative people at Improbable Research honor “achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think” by awarding the Ig Nobel Prize in fields such as physics, fluid dynamics, peace, and chemistry to name a few. While denizens of DC might not be familiar with the great work of Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayor, who finally unlocked the secret as to why coffee spills when walking, many will recognize the winner of this year’s prize in Literature: the U.S. Government General Accountability Office (GAO).
Founded in 1921 by the Budget and Accountability Act, it is the role of the GAO to investigate “how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.” To this end it conducts audits, examines the performance of programs, and keeps an eye on our growing debt. As the number crunchers in Congress it is surprising that they would be so honored for their work in literature.
The winning piece, published in May, is called “Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies.” If that gripping title isn’t enough to make you pick up the report immediately for a quick read, the piece was summarized thusly for the Ig Noble Awards:
The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
It would be easy to dismiss this as yet another reason why we can’t have nice things – because the government spends time and taxpayer money on reports about reports about reports. But a quick glance at the summary reveals a far more sobering side to the funny report. Everyone loves a good report about a report about a report, but the underlying story is about how poorly the Department of Defense (DOD) estimates costs by deviating from the accounting standards published by the GAO and using inconsistent practices that can miss the full scope of DOD costs. GAO points out that not only are costs going unaccounted for, but also DOD cost estimates are lacking when it comes to documentation and accuracy.
With defense spending at the center of sequestration discussions and serious belt tightening needed across the board to halt our out of control spending, it is disconcerting to find that this budgetary third rail can’t even begin to get its books in order. It is unjustifiable that when defense spending consumes 25% of the federal budget of government spending, the DOD can’t say exactly where that money is going.
The Ig Nobel award points less to any dysfunction on the part of bureaucrats at GAO than it does to the extreme bookkeeping ineptitude at DOD that necessitated the report in the first place. In light of looming cuts and repeated failed attempts to root out waste at the Pentagon, Sens. Coburn (R-OK) and Manchin (D-WV) have introduced S. 3487, the Audit the Pentagon Act.
Writing in the Washington Examiner, Coburn explains:
Auditing the Pentagon is critically important not just because it is the law but also because our ignorance of how we spend defense dollars undermines our national security. When the Pentagon can't tell Congress -- or itself -- how it is spending money, high-priority defense programs face cuts along with low-priority programs, the exact situation in which we find ourselves today under sequestration. In short, this bill helps the Pentagon to help itself. For instance, the United States Marine Corps did a study in which the corps found that "for each $1 spent on financial improvement, an estimated $2.77 in value was created for the warfighter." A thorough financial audit, done correctly, will free up existing resources for national security.
DoD's inability to pass an audit has potentially wasted billions and undermined our readiness and morale. For example, as Sen. Manchin has noted, while DoD is considering laying off service members, the Pentagon overspent $8 billion -- almost half of NASA's budget -- on information technology programs that are failing in part because DoD's books are such a mess. This would be enough money for more than 15,000 active-duty troops.
Some of the more egregious wastes of taxpayer funds at DOD such as microbreweries and an iPhone app for monitoring caffeine intake are themselves deserving of Ig Nobel prizes. CBS reports:
Pentagon dollars also funded studies that concluded:
- Men are perceived as more muscular if they're holding a gun, instead of tools.
- New Yorkers and Californians use different regional slang on Twitter.
- The first prehistoric bird probably had black feathers.
- The same basketball teams will always dominate March Madness.
Though the Ig Nobel award ultimately lampoons the extremely serious lack of financial accountability at the Pentagon, on the bright side according to a summary of this year’s prize winners and ceremony, GAO did not send a representative to the ceremony last week at Harvard University, thus saving taxpayers money. Had it been the Pentagon receiving an award for any of their wasteful studies, it would no doubt have involved a full report on The Curse of the Bambino and a flyover.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: September 12, 2012
Today’s Taxpayers News!
A number of Democrats in the House and Senate appear willing to work with Republicans in order to formulate a plan for debt reduction through friendlier tax structures. But will the President be willing to compromise as well?
Hundreds of groups which represent business, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, sent a letter to President Obama and Congress. The Groups beseeched lawmakers to address the fiscal realities that lay before us and work to avoid the sequester and its assortment of tax hikes and spending cuts.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: September 11, 2012
Today’s Taxpayers News!
NTU’s Pete Sepp wrote a piece for The Hill commending the Senate Appropriations Committee’s decision to direct funding towards the SM-3 missile defense program known as Block IB. This program would be ready for use earlier than the second option, Block IIB; and is a less costly, but proven, option.
On November 6th Californians will vote on a ballot measure, “Proposition 30”, which would increase sales taxes by one-fourth of a cent and add a surcharge to those with incomes exceeding $250,000 a year.
Asserting that California’s fiscal recovery is imperative in order for the rest of the nation to pull out of the economic downturn, the US Chamber of Commerce has revealed its California Jobs and Growth Agenda; which offers the Golden State real solutions for balancing its budget and revitalizing its economy.
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Speaking of Taxpayers, September 7th (AUDIO): “No-Brainer” Bills Congress Should Pass
Subscribe to NTU's podcast "Speaking of Taxpayers" via iTunes!
A discussion of 10 "No-Brainer" bills Congress can pass to increase government accountability, reduce wasteful spending, and improve the economy as a whole. Also, the "Fiscal Five" takes a look at soda taxes, property taxes, and more.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Transfer Payments Rise 34 % Under Obama, Taxpayers Lose Out Big Time
Fortune senior editor-at-large Shawn Tully recently took a look at just what goods and services taxpayers have reaped from the 17.8% rise in spending---almost one trillion dollars---since President Obama took office in the last quarter of 2008. Did the flurry of spending lead to increased services for taxpayers or investments in infrastructure to make the US economy stronger and more competitive?
It turns out, the majority of that nearly one trillion dollars didn’t purchase better roads or schools, or even pay the janitors, teachers, and law enforcement personnel whose salaries taxpayers foot the bill for in return for the services they provide:
From late 2008 until today, spending on government goods and services rose just .1% annually, adjusted for inflation. The real shocker is investment: It dropped 3.71% a year in real terms. So the almost 18% rise in spending failed to provide substantially more government services, and furnished a lot less money for the highly touted necessity of rebuilding America's infrastructure.
So where did all that money go, if it was not purchasing us better services or investing in our infrastructure? Unfortunately, the vast majority of that additional spending was funneled towards a ballooning new category of government spending called “transfer payments”:
Government transfer payments are defined as expenditures for which no good, service or upgrade in infrastructure is expected in return. The government collects the money in the form of taxes and new borrowing, then writes the checks to consumers and, to a lesser extent, companies in the form of subsidies.
In other words, the US, already up to the eyeballs in debt and borrowing nearly 40 cents of every dollar we spend, frittered away almost one trillion dollars over the past four years…to move money around from one group of individuals to another. The three largest transfer payment categories are Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but fast on their heels are unemployment benefits, food stamps, and a myriad of subsidies for everything from solar panel manufacturers to ethanol producers.
Unfortunately for taxpayers and anyone concerned about the nation’s spending addiction, the trend for transfers is a definitively upward trajectory: transfer payments have increased by nearly $800 billion a year since 2008, a staggering 34% increase.
The lesson? Massive amounts of government spending do not automatically equate to more goods and services for taxpayers, or a stronger economy overall. If the US is going to set itself on a sustainable fiscal path, it will need to stop taking capitol from the private sector to pay for the inflated social welfare state, and return that capitol to the taxpayers and small business owners who are the real engines of America.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
In a recent commentary piece the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector explains the US Census Bureau’s ability to distort the reality of poverty, making it appear more severe than it truly is in order to continue expanding the social welfare state at the expense of taxpayers.
According to Rector, a leading expert on poverty and welfare, the Census Bureau does not take into account any of the numerous social welfare programs an individual or family may already be benefiting from when calculating the family’s income for poverty-measurement purposes.
For example, the poverty level cutoff for a family of four in 2011 was approximately $23,000 dollars, meaning that any family earning less than this from wages would automatically be counted towards the overall national poverty rate. What is misleading about this system of calculation is that a family whose earned income is $23,000 could still be benefiting from a variety of welfare programs—food stamps, subsidized housing, Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit to name just a few—thus boosting the family’s effective revenues up above the so-called poverty line by hundreds or even thousands of dollars annually.
The result? The poverty level appears higher than it actually is, giving social welfare enthusiasts the ammunition to call for increasing government spending, while draining taxpayers and racking up massive deficits:
“In other words, government now spends on welfare five times the amount needed to raise all families out of poverty---and is about to spend even more.”
Last year welfare spending for a variety of anti-poverty programs totaled $927 billion dollars, excluding three of the largest social programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Insurance. And if the past 48 years since the “War on Poverty” began in 1964 are any indication of future spending, that number will continue upwards.
The Census Bureau’s misleading poverty calculations are just another example of the willingness of Washington bureaucrats to use any excuse to leech taxpayers dry in order to fund an ever-growing social welfare state. These findings are even more upsetting in light of the Obama administration’s gutting of Clinton-era welfare reform by executive fiat.
This is another worthy example of spending more than necessary and fixing less than is needed.
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From the "I'm So Glad We Reauthorized That" File: More Ex-Im Bank Fail
It’s well known these days that green energy endeavors are extremely sound investments, especially for the U.S. government, whose track-record in this area is not at all besmirched by one costly failure after another after another after another.
That’s why it is such a total shock that immediately after securing an Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) backed loan, the Denmark-based LM Wind Power turned around and laid off more than 200 U.S. workers. Apart from the fact that one government backed green energy venture after another has lost money or gone under, there was no way Ex-Im Bank could have seen this coming; probably the details below from The Washington Free Beacon were closely guarded secrets:
When LM Wind Power came to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2007, it said it would employ 1,000 people by 2012. But the global economic crunch led to diminishing demand. Three months before its loan guarantee was finalized, LM Wind Power announced its profits had fallen 41 percent last year.
LM Wind Power also has had numerous citations for workplace safety violations. The Department Of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the firm 11 times in an investigation beginning October 2010 for exposing workers to unsafe conditions and noted the company had demonstrated a “continued pattern of failing to comply” with OSHA standards.
In 2010, LM Wind Power Blades was cited with OSHA violations because of conditions that killed a worker.
The Department of Energy has been getting a lot of attention for its failed Title 17 taxpayer-backed loan guarantee program, but it’s far from the only agency that deserves close scrutiny (if not elimination) for persistent forays into doomed green energy projects. Like a slot-machine addict, the weekly news of government funded failures seem to serve as no reason why the next big investment won’t be the one that finally pays out.
Again, despite repeated and costly failures in the green energy industry, the Heritage Foundation reports that Ex-Im Bank recently made a $2 BILLION loan for green projects such as wind and solar energy in South Africa – not several years ago when everyone was still flush, not last summer before the news of Solyndra broke, but last week - after numerous and costly failures:
“To now, Ex-Im Bank has not cost the taxpayer money. But there are strong reasons to think this loan is a mistake. When SolarReserve or some of its South African partners go under in the next couple years, Ex-Im will face renewed congressional demands that it be curbed or closed,” said Heritage’s Derek Scissors, senior research fellow in Asian Studies.
On top of the fact that Ex-Im Bank’s market-distorting actions are well-outside the role of government and seriously poor fiscal policy, the repeated bad investments and inherent cronyism within the institution should have been more than enough reason to oppose reauthorizing the bank. The Examiner’s Tim Carney sums up the cronyist connection here:
For years, I have been saying that green energy is the place to look if you’re looking for tales of cronyism, corruption, and corporate welfare. It has all the elements: profits dependent on subsidies, customers that are often government-protected monopolies, deep involvement of finance types ranging from Goldman Sachs to politically connected VC, PE, and hedge funds.
These elements are all too alive and well within Ex-Im Bank. You can read more about the crony capitalists at the helm here.
With no sign of being afflicted by simple logic in the near future and with so many bad projects out there still to fund it’s a good thing that a “compromise” was struck to reauthorize Ex-Im Bank just a few short months ago. Outside of Washington, compromises tend to mean that each side of a fight loses a bit to meet somewhere in the middle. In this instance, the middle was a massive funding increase from $100 billion to $140 billion, so there are still plenty of funds to throw down the green energy money pit.
PS: In other green energy news, Fisker Automotive, known best for it’s very flammable high end Fisker Karma hybrid cars and recipient of millions of dollars in DOE loans, just named its new CEO, who is the former head of Chevy Volt at GM. Chevy Volt, it should be noted, made no money and costs taxpayers thousands of dollars per car. This should end well.
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