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On Mining Investment, the United States is Dead Last
Posted By: Sharon Koss - 07/15/13

While environmental protection is an important concern in the development of our nation’s natural resources, excessive regulations have suppressed expansion of our critical minerals industry and sent jobs overseas.  In a study of the 25 leading mining countries, the United States has tied with Papua New Guinea for last place in terms of delays involved in obtaining a mining permit:

Permitting delays are the most significant risk to mining projects in the United States. A few mining friendly states (Nevada, Utah, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arizona) are an exception to this rule but are negatively impacted by federal rules that they are bound to enforce resulting in a 7- to 10-year waiting period before mine development can begin. 

This red tape essentially offers energy business on a platter to other countries, namely China.  Many of these elements which America is forced to import could be provided through domestic mining if redundant regulations didn’t discourage development. The Natural Resources Committee in the house began looking into this issue in 2011 when it referred to a U.S. Geological Survey which reported that:

The U.S. is 100% dependent on foreign sources for rare earth elements (REE), 97% of which are provided by China... the USGS released a report revealing 13 million metric tons of REEs exist within known deposits in 14 U.S. states.

In February 2013, Congressman Mark Amodei (R-NV), along with 57 cosponsors, proposed H.R. 761, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2013, in order to address this issue.

Although many of these minerals are necessary for the president’s green energy goals, Obama still refuses to allow efficient development of domestic minerals and asks legislators to strongly oppose H.R. 761 in the name of environmental protection.

A similar scenario is playing out on the Outer Continental Shelf and across many federal lands where onerous regulations and permitting processes keep our natural resources tied up in red tape. Whether those resources are essential minerals or equally essential energy, the solution is still the same, as NTU’s Executive Vice President Pete Sepp explained:

Instead of picking winners and losers in the industry, we believe officials should pursue a policy that applies low, simple taxes … avoids government subsidies, and eases regulations that stand in the way of developing new resources.

With employment numbers still stubbornly low, Washington should be easing the path for economic development and job growth, not throwing up roadblocks for job creators. Let’s hope the House moves H.R. 761 forward quickly to help get vital investments out of permitting purgatory.

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New Study: If Trends Continue, Obama Will be Abroad for 190 Days as President
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/27/13

Michael Tasselmyer, NTU Foundation's Policy Analyst, authored a paper on the international travels of President Obama. Though the President spends fewer average days abroad per trip, he is still on pace to travel more overall than six of the last eight Presidents. He could be away for as many as 190 days on international trips, if his travel trends continue. To put this in context, if the President ends up traveling abroad for those 190 days, he will have spent just under nine percent of his tenure visiting other countries (FYI, he will be in office a total 2,191 days). That not only means that he will be spending more time away from the White House but the government will be spending new levels of tax dollars on security, personnel, and logistics associated with those trips.

One key fact Tasselmyer points out is the unknown total cost of each or all of the President's trips, which reach the tens of millions of public dollars. Just as Presidents Clinton and Bush, Obama has many hundreds of traveling companions and multiple aircraft to guarantee his security and travel but taxpayers are not purview to the top-line costs. Tasselmyer said:

"NTUF does not dispute the widely-held belief that a vital component of the President's duties is to represent our nation in foreign countries. [This study] is provided in the interest of fostering rational public discussions over the transparency as well as the costs and benefits of such activity."

Below is a travel breakdown of each year that President Obama has been in office:

President Obama's International Travel by Year
Year
Trips
Days
Total Countries
Unique Countries
2009
10
40
25
21
2010
6
20
9
8
2011
4
20
9
9
2012
5
15
7
7
2013
4
18
10
10
Note: Data for 2013 includes 4 trips, including his current trip to Africa.
Source: State Department data and media reports, compiled in Up in the Air: A Study of Presidential Travel and its Uncertain Costs, National Taxpayers Union Foundation

The study also includes an updated per-flight-hour cost for Air Force One, which slightly decreased from NTUF's 2010 study because of changes in fuel costs. Check out the report and stay tuned to NTUF's Twitter feed for other key findings (as well as reactions from taxpayers, lawmakers, and the Administration).

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The Late Edition: May 15, 2013
Posted By:  - 05/15/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTUF’s Michael Tasselmyer breaks down the CBO’s updated budget predictions through 2023.

Take a first hand look at the inspector general report on the IRS "abuse of power" scandal.

The IRS has wasted at least $110.8 billion dollars since 2000 in misappropriated Earned Income Tax Credits alone, says the Heartland Institute.

Men between ages 25 and 36 could see their premiums jump above 50% as a result of “Obamacare” says CNN Money.

Check out this chart showing how age and gender change the amount the law will likely have you pay.

ObamaCare

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TV Investigation Wins Peabody Award for IRS Fraud Investigation, Sparks Agency Reforms
Posted By:  - 04/05/13

You would never have even heard of a recent scheme that let fraudsters make off with $4.2 billion per year in taxpayer dollars, if it were not for intrepid investigative journalism by WTHR-TV in Indianapolis. For these efforts that taxpayers in particular can appreciate, WTHR recently won the highest award in journalism, the Peabody Award.

The 6-month long investigative series that earned the award exposed the IRS for ignoring a “loophole” that allowed people here unlawfully to insert on tax forms the names of children that may not have even lived in the U.S., snagging unwarranted taxpayer cash.

The series has struck a chord with citizens across the nation, and even inspired many IRS employees aware of the abuse to contact WTHR and share their experiences. One whistleblower confided:

"I just saw your report and there's something I need to tell you. I see this stuff every day and there isn't anything I can do about it."

The controversy also made its way to Capitol Hill, and led to a debate in the spring of last year as to why nothing had been done about this disturbing mishandling of taxpayer dollars.

In May of 2012, following WTHR’s investigative report, the House of Representatives debated the issue, with the majority of Republicans arguing in favor of closing the loophole, and the majority of Democrats opposing doing so.

Citing WTHR’s findings, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), espoused outrage during the floor debate on a reconciliation package, H.R. 5652, which included closing the loophole:

“This is where our taxpayer money is going, to the [additional] child tax credit. One investigation in Indiana said illegal immigrants in Indiana are getting $29,608 for 20 children they claimed for the tax credit who live in Mexico and have never visited the United States before!"

Unsurprisingly, after the House managed to pass the bill along strict party lines, H.R. 5652 died in the Democrat-controlled Senate, leaving taxpayers on the hook to continue doling out billions.

Still, after WTHR’s scathing investigation into the fraud and abuse under the agency’s purview, the IRS announced new reforms to how the child tax credit is allotted in October of 2012.

“The IRS also announced heightened review of documentation related to child tax credits by requiring more information to be sure residency requirements for these credits are met. This is probably in response to concerns about nonresidents successfully claiming these credits.”

When it comes to addressing fraud that victimizes taxpayers, the phrase ‘better late than never’ comes to mind, and WTHR deserves a warm round of applause for affecting change in an instance where officials openly neglected their duty to ensure the law is properly enforced.

 

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NTU and Foundation Poll Youth Conference for Their Important Issues
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 02/21/13

Staff from the National Taxpayers Union and NTU's research and education arm, NTU Foundation, participated in the 2013 International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC) with one question for attendees: What policies will you fight for? Over the course of the weekend, students and young adults responded by voting for one of six issues that we thought Americans of all ages could at least agree needs addressing. Many attendees were interested in the mission of NTU and NTUF and asked us many, often challenging questions. I recall one conversation about the economic and realistic reasoning behind whether or not to establish a federal Balanced Budget Amendment. Some even took up the cause of lower taxes and less government by becoming members of NTU or saying that they would enjoy the opportunity to intern with us over the summer. If you’re interested, check out our Internship page. We accept interns year-round and there’s a lot of government to roll back. Still others were looking to show their support for NTU and Foundation in other ways:

Blogger and Vlogger Julie Borowski stopped by for a bumper sticker and a picture

We asked people to cast a vote for their number one issue that needs reform right now. Our six fishbowls highlighted some of the issues we thought the ISFLC participants would identify with the most. The issues were: a Balanced Budget Amendment, cutting the Pentagon budget, ending the Federal Reserve, less spending, real tax reform, and right to work. One lucky entry would be drawn to be interviewed on NTU's Speaking of Taxpayers podcast. The Results were interesting:

Issues Voted on by Participants at
the 2013 International Students for Liberty Conference
Issue
Percentage of Overall Votes
Balanced Budget Amendment
13%
Cut the Pentagon Budget
7%
End the Fed
33%
Less Overall Spending
19%
Real Tax Reform
8%
Right to Work
6%
Other
14%
Note: Not necessarily representative of all ISFLC participants

We also found that these six issues were just the tip of the iceberg. On a separate board, students pinned other ideas on where NTU and Foundation can help out taxpayers, including stopping sin taxes, ending corporate welfare, and fighting for bacon (yes, we had some serious bacon fans at ISFLC). All of this proved that young people are just as interested in the important fiscal issues as any other age group.

Thanks to everyone who came by our booth and let their voices be heard and congratulations to Annie Setten who will be interviewed next Friday!

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The Late Edition: February 19, 2013
Posted By:  - 02/19/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTU’s Pete Sepp on the approximately $45,000 a year taxpayer-funded pension Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be due, unless he chooses not to take it.

NTU’s Nan Swift takes a detailed look at the President’s proposals for education reform.

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The Late Edition: January 28, 2013
Posted By:  - 01/28/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Pete Sepp weighs in on two bills sponsored by Iowa Representatives Tom Latham (R) and Dave Loebsack (D) which would limit congressional pay increases. Read the full story from The Gazette.

State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk on North Carolina’s legislative plans to make the state more business-friendly.

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ICASS and Economies of Scale
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 01/17/13

In 1997, the U.S. government established the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) system to offer administrative support to federal agencies with employees stationed overseas. Funded at over $2 billion in fiscal year 2011, ICASS provides a wide variety of services, ranging from vehicle maintenance to furniture supply and upkeep, for nearly 23,500 federal employees in more than 40 agencies stationed at over 250 embassies, consulates, and offices around the world. ICASS is a cost-sharing system, in which participating agencies contribute funds relative to the costs they incur by using the system.

However, participating agencies aren't always keen on utilizing the services that ICASS offers: from 2005 to 2011, 13 agencies decreased their participation by more than 10 percent each. A 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempted to find out why.

GAO found that nearly all participating agencies decline some level of support from ICASS and instead find alternative means of providing select services. For example, many agencies prefer to manage their own vehicle fleets rather than pay for ICASS support, often citing in a GAO-conducted survey that they had concerns about the cost and quality of ICASS services. In fact, 11 of the 56 respondents in that survey who indicated that they did not use ICASS vehicle support said that their departments’ missions simply could not be carried out if they had to rely on ICASS vehicular services.

In December 2012, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced S. 3676, the Reducing Duplication Overseas Act. That legislation would have required government agencies to obtain administrative support from ICASS unless they could demonstrate significant cost or efficiency advantages from other providers. Specifically, the bill would apply to vehicle and furniture services.

In theory, with higher participation rates, ICASS could purchase more administrative services in bulk, and therefore at lower costs per unit - a concept economists refer to as "economies of scale." By consolidating government support services, ICASS can purchase them more efficiently, and cut down on extraneous costs such as paying for separate warehouses, more individualized workloads, and convoluted inventory tracking.

GAO found that if ICASS participation increased by 10 percent, per-unit costs for various services affected by Akaka's bill could decrease by 5 to 8 percent.

If federal agencies are going to opt out of the ICASS system, they should document and show that the alternatives they employ are justified. They should make the case that they are either saving money or cannot meet their objective with existing services. This data could, in turn, be used to streamline and improve ICASS.

NTUF does not support any public official or position. For more information on BillTally, please visit ntu.org/ntuf.

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The Late Edition: January 10, 2013
Posted By:  - 01/10/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

NTUF’s Demian Brady and NTU’s Brandon Arnold address the necessity of spending reform in this Townhall op-ed.

This Real Clear Politics article examines President Obama’s lackluster stance on cutting spending.

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Harper on Spending Transparency in Committees
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 01/09/13

Via the Washington Examiner, the Cato Institute's Director of Information Policy Studies, Jim Harper, asks why the Appropriations Committees in both federal chambers don't use technology to better convey their spending intentions when considering legislation:

"For better or worse, the movement of money is a reflection of our values, but the appropriations process is the cloudiest mirror America ever gazed into. More than a trillion dollars move each year based on appropriators' instructions, but Congress's spending decisions are so cloistered in arcane language and inaccessible documentation, the appropriation committees might as well be a pair of mountain monasteries.

"Why not publish proposed spending in appropriations bills using digital formats and uniform codes to indicate what agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects would get the money, as well as what they're supposed to do with it? So far, appropriators have deeply lagged their colleagues in Congress and the rest of the government. There's no sign they plan to change that."

Props to Jim in his efforts to not only change the way government releases information for taxpayers to better understand government but to be active in allowing Americans to voice their opinions on proposed legislation through his WashingtonWatch.com website. Check it out & you’ll see some NTUF BillTally figures there!

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