Government Bytes


"Temporary" Programs That You're Still Funding

by Michael Tasselmyer / /

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was passed in 2009 as one of President Obama's first major efforts to dig the U.S. economy out of a deepening recession. Designed to employ more Americans, repair aging infrastructure, and provide additional assistance to the ever-increasing number of families who needed it, the bill authorized a variety of programs that were touted as temporary, timely and targeted.

Nearly five years later, as the economy continues along the slow road to recovery, many of those "temporary" programs are still receiving taxpayer funding in spite of doubts over their effectiveness. In this week's edition of the Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF took a look at a few in particular, including:

  • Build America Bonds: These bonds were issued through the end of 2010 in order to finance state and local governments' capital improvement projects, such as refurbishing roads and repairing public buildings. The discounted borrowing rate was a significant incentive for those who purchased them, but that discount continues to come at a cost to the federal government in the form of interest payment subsidies and other related expenses. The President has proposed a permanent program -- similar in design -- in his 2014 budget, called America Fast Forward. That would result in $23.4 billion in outlays over the next five years. Reps. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) have both proposed to make the Build America Bonds program permanent, as well.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): As more families saw their incomes fall and qualified for federal benefits, ARRA authorized a 13.6 percent funding increase for SNAP, formerly known as "food stamps". That increase was set to expire at the end of November 2013, but President Obama's 2014 budget has proposed extending it at a cost of $2.2 billion in FY2014 and $41 million in FY15.
  • Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board: The Board, which was originally slated to cease activities at the end of this month, was given authority to operate through 2015 to oversee funding related to Hurricane Sandy Relief. It was designed with the intention to provide oversight of ARRA funding disbursements. The President's budget requested an additional $12.5 million for the Board's operation in FY14.

These programs alone represent $2.9 billion in spending that was originally intended to be merely a "temporary" economic stimulus. As the late Milton Friedman said, "[n]othing is so permanent as a temporary government program." 

For more on these programs and the legislation affecting them, check out the latest issue of the Tab online here. You can sign up for future updates here.