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Reflections on CPAC
Posted By:  - 02/12/11

Today is the third and final day of the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the largest annual gathering of conservatives and libertarians in the nation. After three days of staffing a well-visited booth, meeting with dedicated activists, and listening to dynamic speakers, I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation, but also to what the future holds for the conservative movement.

This year’s CPAC had the highest number of attendees (11,000) in the history of the conference. CPAC speakers ranged from Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee Chair, to Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, a potential presidential candidate who gave, in my view, an outstanding keynote address, which you can read here. Also, CPAC 2011 featured a number of new participating organizations that focus on both activism and policy related to social, economic, and political issues at the federal, state, and local levels.

While attending CPAC, I had the opportunity to participate in a number of discussions about important tax and fiscal policy issues facing the United States. NTUF hosted a discussion about entitlement reform that featured experts such as Rep. Devin Nunes, Maya MacGuineas, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Steven Moore, and Dan Mitchell. The bottom line of their presentation was that we need to start tackling the problem of runaway entitlement spending before it’s too late.

But budget reform should not be restricted to social programs. CPAC also featured a panel on how the nation can reduce defense spending to a more manageable level without jeopardizing readiness. As a former military aide to a fiscally conservative Member of Congress, I was pleased to hear all of the views presented and the many ideas for maintaining an affordable defense posture. The passion the attendees displayed at the panels, and in conversations with me at the NTU table, was striking.  It bodes well for conservatives if these activists carry their views home and remain outspoken and active in the political process.

For the last several weeks, there has been a lot of talk in the media about differences in the conservative movement over certain policies and suggestions that these differences spell certain doom the conservative movement.  After three days of observing conservatives of all stripes from across the country, I can unequivocally say that reports of destructive differences among conservatives are greatly exaggerated. In fact, I would argue that the conservative movement has never been stronger and ready to bring real solutions to the many serious problems facing the nation.

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Tune into NTU's State of the Union Coverage tonight
Posted By:  - 01/25/11

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, the National Taxpayers Union's crack government affairs and policy analysis teams will provide special online coverage of the President’s State of the Union Address, and we want you to be there and be a part of the discussion. We will be breaking down the President's proposals and what they will mean for taxpayers. Details on how you can join the conversation are below.

  • If you have a Twitter account, use the hash tags #NTUSOTU and #SOTU to link to our discussions and analyses. Hash tags are like keywords for Twitter. Just use them in each of your messages to link to the ongoing dialogue. Remember to also follow @NTU and @NTUF for all the latest commentary!
  • You can also log onto NTU’s Facebook page, where we will constantly update our newsfeed with links, comments, and memorable quotes. Be sure to join our page by clicking "Like"!
  • Even if you don’t have a Twitter of Facebook account, you can still share your thoughts and opinions by going to our special chat room. Join the chat here.
  • NTU will also be updating our blog, Government Bytes, as the night progresses. You can comment on each post as well! Just click on the “Post a Comment” link and speak your mind.

We look forward to seeing you online tonight at 9 p.m. EST!

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Presidential Travel Study Update
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 12/03/10

President Obama made a surprise trip to Afghanistan last night and into today. The 26-hour round trip from Washington D.C. to Bagram Air Base will cost taxpayers at least $4.7 million in Air Force One costs alone. The cost includes maintenance, fuel, and aircraft overhauls. However, the figure does not include the security entourage or vehicles accompanying the President.

This trip to Afghanistan will total 16 foreign trips, totaling 56 days. President George H. W. Bush is the next most traveled President at 54 days during his first two years in office.

Calculations for Air Force One flight hour costs were included in NTUF’s latest Issue Brief #161: Incredible Journey: How Barack Obama Became the Most-Traveled President His First Two Years in Office by Senior Policy Analyst Demian Brady. The paper is a survey of international travel made by Presidents Eisenhower through Obama and the costs associated with operating Air Force One in the past two decades.

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NASA and Haiti Reforestation Acts Covered in Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/17/10

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As legislators head into the Lame Duck session and taxpayers begin to make holiday plans, NTUF continues its efforts in bringing officials and citizens the most up-to-date potential spending picture.  

The latest edition of The Taxpayer’s Tab covers a wide range of topics and policy goals. One bill already signed into law is the NASA Authorization bill. Many have voiced their positions on whether space travel should remain in the realm of the government agency or privatized to let NASA focus on science and traveling to other planets. Budget hawks have cited the large bureaucracy and lack of direction shows NASA needs to be reformed. S. 3729 provides more money to NASA, on average $1.1 billion in the next three years, for more science, more encouragement of private rocket competition, and another shuttle mission.

Legislation covered in the new Taxpayer’s Tab includes:

  • S 3729/HR 5781, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010
  • S 3742/HR 2221, Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2010
  • HR 2103/S 987, International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009
  • S1183/HR 4206, Haiti Reforestation Act of 2010
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$572 Million Net Federal Spending in Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/09/10

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The NTU Foundation’s Taxpayer’s Tab is back to its regular schedule and format, highlighting four newly scored Congressional bills.

Covering veterans educational benefits, the Most Expensive Bill of the Week would allow certain service members to transfer benefits to their dependents. The Least Expensive Bill of the Week would establish a comprehensive energy plan, including more domestic oil exploration, alternative technology development, and a natural gas vehicle demonstration project provision. The House version of the Prevention First Act was found to increase federal spending by $417 million in the first year.

Bills covered in the latest Taxpayer’s Tab include:

  • HR 3577, Education Assistance to Realign New Eligibilities for Dependents (EARNED) Act of 2009
  • HR 3505, American Energy Production and Price Reduction Act
  • HR 463/S 21, Prevention First Act
  • S 3078/HR 4757, health Insurance Rate Authority Act of 2010
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NTU Joins with Liberal Group to Identify $600 Billion in Waste
Posted By: Andrew Moylan - 10/28/10

Today, NTU joined with the liberal group U.S. PIRG to release a report called "Toward Common Ground: Bridging the Political Divide to Reduce Spending." This report debuts a list of $600 billion worth of specific federal spending reductions. With all the talk about debt and deficits, we saw an opportunity to put together a true left-right coalition in order to begin the conversation about the difficult choices we’ll have to make as a nation. We thought it would be useful to reach across the ideological divide to identify specific items that we could cut from the federal budget without reducing the quality of government services or neglecting the government's basic commitments.

The U.S. PIRG and NTU study identifies 30 specific, actionable items to cut in federal spending, including:    

  • $62 billion in savings by eliminating wasteful subsidies to farmers and large corporations.
  • $354 billion in savings from reforming inefficient contract and acquisition procedures.
  • $77 billion in savings by improving execution of existing government programs as well as eliminating unneeded programs.
  • $108 billion in savings from ending low-priority or unnecessary weapons systems, along with rightsizing other programs.

While we're under no illusions that every group or individual on the left and right will agree with our list, we think that it can serve as something of a consensus document from which Congress and the President's Fiscal Commission can work. Simply stated, we can't continue to kick the can down the road on reducing the size of the federal government.  In order to head off a debt crisis like that facing Greece today, we need to begin scaling back our unsustainable spending habits.  This list can help to do that without starting a political food fight.

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Taxpayer’s Tab Covers Veteran Benefits, Arson Database in New Issue
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 10/21/10

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Through this busy election season, NTU Foundation continues to score the bills Congress has introduced to keep taxpayers informed. The top potential spending, savings, and law changes are again highlighted in this week’s Taxpayer’s Tab. Issue 16 examines bills that would expand military veteran and personnel educational benefits, establish an arson database, and provide for improved prison conditions throughout the world.

The latest Taxpayer’s Tab covers the following bills:

  • S 3447/HR 5933, Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act
  • S 1684/HR 1784, Managing Arson Though Criminal History (MATCH) Act of 2010
  • HR 6153/S 3798, Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act

Also, the Tab highlights the recent U.S. Senate Candidate Spending Analyses, which NTUF has release over the past two weeks. So far, five Pennsylvania and Florida candidates have been highlighted for their spending agendas. Some would increase while others would decrease federal spending. NTUF will be releasing more reports in the coming week. Be sure to stay up-to-date on all the latest research by checking out the NTUF homepage and following the official @NTUF Twitter feed.

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Public Presidential Campaign Financing Covered in NTUF Taxpayer’s Tab
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 10/14/10

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Springing forth from the successful BillTally Quarterly Report in Issue 14 of The Taxpayer’s Tab last week, NTU Foundation brings you brand new cost estimates in the traditional weekly format -- that's four bills introduced in the 111th Congress that would increase or decrease federal spending.

The most expensive bill of the week is a collaborative effort between pro-choice and pro-life caucuses in the House, to prevent unintended pregnancies and attempt to reduce the need for abortions. If enacted, the $3.9 billion first year cost would go towards state grants and programs supporting education and women’s health.

This week’s Taxpayer’s Tab details the following bills:

  • HR 3312, Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Supporting Parents Act
  • S 3452, Valles Caldera National Preserve management Act
  • HR 775/S 535, Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act
  • HR 6061/S 3681, Presidential Funding Act

To supplement the large number of Military Surviving Spouses Equity Act cosponsors, the following is a breakdown by party and chamber.

  • House – 352 Congressmen in Support
    • 222 Democrats (87 percent of all Democrat Representatives)
    • 130 Republicans (73 percent of all Republican Representatives)
  • Senate – 60 Senators in Support
    • 40 Democrats (68 percent of all Senate Democrats)
    • 17 Republicans (41 percent of GOP Senators)
    • 2 Independents (100 percent of Independent Senators)*
    • 

* Senators Lieberman and Sanders caucus with the Senate Democrats.

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Corporate Welfare or Taxpayer Warfare?
Posted By:  - 09/24/10

That might be the question on the mind of Montgomery County (MD) Executive Ike Leggett. The reason why is because, earlier this summer, Leggett announced that he would ask the Montgomery County Council to pass a law that would exempt Lockheed Martin, the major defense contractor headquartered in the county seat of Bethesda, from paying the county’s hotel tax. At issue is a facility on the Lockheed corporate campus called the Center for Leadership Excellence, which houses visiting workers, contractors, and vendors. Between December and April last year, the Center housed 9,000 people. Also, the Center has created 175 jobs, according to the county’s budget director.

The State of Maryland has already enacted legislation that would exempt Lockheed’s facility from the state’s hotel tax. As it is designed, Leggett’s bill would exempt only Lockheed’s facility. The exemption would cost the county $450,000 in tax revenues a year, according to opponents. They argue that Lockheed Martin, being a major corporation, can afford to pay the tax. Further, they argue that the county cannot afford to give away tax breaks “when our citizens are suffering from furloughs, layoffs, hiring freezes and drastic cuts in services.”

What strikes me about these arguments is the strange logic behind them. Here we have a situation where a business, which is not in the hotel business at all, is unfairly subject to a tax. Legislators at the state level have recognized this is a problem and have acted to exempt the business and similar facilities from the tax. But none of that matters to opponents of corrective measure because they are so starved for money, especially other people’s money redistributed through the government, that they would unfairly tax an entity – including one that is providing $7.1 billion to the local economy and employing thousands of area residents – to get at that money. I can’t think of a better case for budget and tax reform.

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Only 8 Weeks Until MidTerms, Are You Informed?
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 09/21/10

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The NTU Foundation wants you to be the most informed voter, armed with the best, up-to-date information, as America heads into the mid-term election season. The Taxpayer’s Tab is one of the tools NTUF provides to keep track of Congress' potential spending agenda. This will be our 12th issue in which we highlight the highest and lowest cost bills, as well as the most cosponsored bills working their way through Congress and into law. In those 12 issues, we have articled over 40 bills and shown you the ways our BillTally data can help you in deciding if the priorities your legislator supports match your own.

As our country heads into one of the most contentious election cycles in recent memory, be sure to keep the Taxpayer’s Tab at the top of you inboxes and forefront of your minds. NTUF’s research is independent and nonpartisan. We do the grunt work so you can cut through the campaign rhetoric about Congress's spending habits.

The new issue of the Taxpayer’s Tab tackles yet another bill eliminating waiting periods for Medicare and Social Security Disability Insurance. Then we navigate through some of the Department of Defense’s weapons programs in a bill calling for their cancellation. A bill requiring earmark transparency is also showcased in our “Most Friended” section. Last, but not least, our Wildcard section centers on a bill which would continue and expand price reporting for businesses in the dairy and meat industries.

The specific bills of The Taxpayer’s Tab #12 include:

  • HR 2881, Kenny Callahan Act
  • HR 5784, Reduce and End our Deficits Using Commonsense Eliminations (REDUCE) in the Defense Programs Act
  • S 3335/HR5258, Earmark Transparency Act
  • S 3656/HR 5852, Mandatory Price Reporting Act

To help everyone get the most out of this upcoming election and The Taxpayer’s Tab, encourage your friends and family to join NTUF, follow NTUF on Twitter, subscribe to the Tab, and forward this important newsletter to others. Remember, transparency is everyone’s business and an issue in and of itself this election.

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