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Government Reform

The Late Edition: January 8, 2012
Posted By:  - 01/08/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

As the debt ceiling approaches, cutting unnecessary government spending needs to be front and center in Washington. This opinion piece from the Washington Post examines the history of farm subsidies and their burden on taxpayers.  

Because the debt deal to avert the Fiscal Cliff failed to specify the spending cuts that will need to take place in coming months, states are left unsure about how to manage their budgets.

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Whistleblower Protections: A Living Example of Their Relevance
Posted By:  - 12/20/12

This past November NTU celebrated the signing into law of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, after a decade-long campaign to strengthen the process by which federal employees who report waste, fraud, and abuse are shielded from on-the-job retaliation. From time to time, we’re reminded that the issues of transparency and insight into the inner workings of government surrounding whistleblower laws have human dimensions. They’re not just about dry language in some obscure federal statute.

Karen Hudes, a former US Export Import Bank employee who served in the Legal Department from 1986 to 2007, is one such example. She contacted NTU after learning of a grassroots petition on World Bank shenanigans we conducted with the Government Accountability Project. According to Hudes’ website, after witnessing what she believed to be a flawed and fraudulent takeover of a Philippine bank in 1999 she voiced her concerns to the World Bank’s Internal Audit Department. Hudes alleges that instead of having her concerns addressed she was placed on probation while the matters she raised were swept aside:

“The Bank’s Country Director in the Philippines reassigned Karen when she asked him to sign a letter warning the Philippines’ government that the Bank could not disburse its loan without a waiver from the Board of Executive Directors since the loan conditionality was not met. The World Bank’s Internal Audit Department refused to correct the satisfactory evaluation of the Bank’s supervision performance or the flawed report of the Institutional Integrity Department to the Audit Committee of the Board of Executive Directors.”

Hudes’ attempt to report what she had experienced has gone on for several years now. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Senators Richard Lugar, Evan Bayh and Patrick Leahy made attempts to gain answers from the World Bank concerning Hudes’ findings, but those efforts did not, she contends, prove conclusive. After Hudes brought her complaint to the Internal Audit Department, the World Bank proceeded to fire her, as well as the Staff Association’s lawyer. In 2009, after years of legal battles, the Chairman of the World Bank's Committee on Governance and Administrative Matters and Dean of the Board of Executive Directors reversed her firing, but the Bank’s President at that time did not recognize the decision. Hudes still currently has cases in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Although we do not claim to have the expertise that could judge the merits of the highly technical financial details behind the World Bank’s practices, Hudes’ story illustrates one important point: how vital the recent victory of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is in at least helping to provide government employees safe avenues to report information that can then be evaluated without fear of reprisal.

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After Over a Decade, Stronger Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act Passes Senate
Posted By:  - 11/15/12

This week, the Senate took a vital step towards improving government accountability and protecting those government workers who speak out against waste, fraud, and abuse by passing S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) by unanimous consent. This landmark legislation, which NTU has been avidly fighting in favor of for years, took over a decade to wind its way up to the sitting president’s desk and now finally appears poised to become law.

Although similar legislative efforts have been made in the past, they have largely been undone through the courts, leaving would-be whistleblowers few avenues for reporting government abuses on the job without fear of retaliation. S.743 has been crafted with these past defects in mind, and seeks to remedy former oversights. Among the new safeguards are provisions to:

  • Close loopholes previously created by the courts that eliminated protections for some of the most frequently encountered whistleblower problems
  • Extend the span of protections into more sectors of government
  • Allow the Office of Special Counsel to file amicus briefs in support of whistleblowers

These new measures will go a long way towards helping streamline the whistleblower process, strengthening the protections for federal employees who speak out, and essentially making government more accountable to the people whom it serves.

NTU is just one of the many organizations across the political spectrum who have advocated along with members of Congress for a stronger whistleblower protection law. In September, Republican Congressman Todd Platts of Pennsylvania thanked NTU and a number of others for our work on behalf of the legislation, saying:

“Without all of their efforts, we would not be in a position to finally secure enactment of this important legislation that insures whistleblowers with the courage to report waste, fraud, and abuse are applauded---not punished.”

 

 

 

 

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The Late Edition: September 27, 2012
Posted By:  - 09/27/12

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Stephen Slivinski, of the Goldwater Institute in Arizona, explains how eliminating state income taxes has been shown to significantly spur economic growth and encourage job creation in states like Texas, and proposes that Arizona follow suit.

NTU’s Pete Sepp weighs in on congressional perks in this article from the Washington Guardian

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(VIDEO) NTU's Pete Sepp on Protecting Whistleblowers and Fostering Transparency in Government
Posted By:  - 09/27/12

Pete Sepp from the National Taxpayers Union talks with Michael Ostrolenk about the need to protect whistleblowers and for regulatory transparency reform for the new congress and administration in 2013. He talks about organizing and educating conservatives on the whistleblower issue. Pete and Michael recently did an Op-Ed in support of the whistleblower bill in the Senate / House available here

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The Late Edition: September 10, 2012
Posted By:  - 09/10/12

Today’s Taxpayers News!

With Congress returning to Washington this week, it is an important time for fiscally conservative advocates to continue pushing lawmakers to pass the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) without stripping it of key provisions. NTU’s Pete Sepp, Liberty Coalition’s Michael Ostrolenk, and Government Accountability Project’s Tom Devine, have all been vocal proponents of getting Congress to pass an effective version of the WPEA.

If one Virginia lawmaker had his way, corporate income tax in the Old Dominion would be scrapped all together, making Virginia the sixth state to move towards more business friendly and pro-growth policies.

The fight against Gov. John Kasich’s plan to increase taxes on oil and gas production in Ohio is getting more heated.

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Another Obama Success: Getting Rid Of Beneficial Programs!
Posted By:  - 07/20/12

With a swipe of his pen, President Obama single handedly wiped out years of extremely successful welfare reform. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 replaced the former welfare system, Aide to Families With Dependent Children, with TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). The crux of this replacement was that it required anyone receiving welfare to be working. The Heritage Foundation offers a good analysis:

 The welfare reform law was very successful. In the four decades prior to welfare reform, the welfare caseload never experienced a significant decline. But, in the four years after welfare reform, the caseload dropped by nearly half. Employment surged and child poverty among affected groups plummeted. The driving force behind these improvements was the rigorous new federal work requirements contained in the TANF law.

 Working for money. To most, this is common sense, but to the president it is unacceptable to make anyone work for OTHER people’s tax dollars; they should be simply have the money handed to them. If money is handed to you, where is the incentive to work? There is no incentive, which is why those on welfare never got off of it until they actually had to start working. It may seem so simple to the average American, but apparently there are some in Washington who need an Econ 101 class refresher.

 Not only was the program extremely successful, but also written into the bill was a specific line that said these work requirements could not be waived. We cannot allow our President to dictate what he does and does not like about our democratic system with nothing more than a slash of his pen. He must be held accountable. So, to review, President Obama illegally got rid of a successful and extremely popular program that was nothing but beneficial to the economy. Someone get this man a prize.

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Book Review: Taxpayers Don't Stand A Chance
Posted By:  - 06/29/12

Matt Mayer, a friend of NTU and former President of Ohio’s terrific Buckeye Institute, has written an enlightening book describing the political failures of an important battleground state and the resulting national implications. The book, Taxpayers Don’t Stand A Chance, is a detailed look at why Ohio, once a leader in the national economy, has been in decline in recent years. Mayer provides countless examples to demonstrate how politicians are putting their own interests first and the fallout in the Buckeye State and the rest of the country.

 Taxpayers Don’t Stand a Chance takes an in-depth look at how bias in the media provides voters with a lack of coverage for conservative ideas. The difficulty of publicizing free-market ideas helps create an environment where politicians remain loyal to unions and special interests at the expense of taxpayers. Mayer also highlights the importance of Ohio as a notorious “swing state” in Presidential elections and other national policy matters.

 The book is a brilliant description of the serious problems facing Ohio, how they impact the rest of the country, and what taxpayers in the state and across the country can do about it. It is a must-read for anyone interested in politics as well as those who are concerned about the direction America is heading in. In a characteristically selfless move, Mayer will donate all of the proceeds from the book to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

 Ohio, like many Midwestern states, faces tremendous fiscal and economic challenges in its future. Matt Mayer’s Taxpayers Don’t Stand a Chance is a great explanation of how the state got to where it is today, and how it might navigate toward smoother sailing in the future.

For more information on Taxpayers Don’t Stand A Chance go to: www.facebook.com/taxpayersdontstandachance

 and to purchase a copy: http://www.amazon.com/Taxpayers-Dont-Stand-Chance-Battleground/dp/1469985098/ref=pd_rhf_ee_p_t_2

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GAO: The Government's Eternal Optimist
Posted By: Demian Brady - 05/24/12

The Government Accountability Office, also known as the "congressional watchdog", is charged with reviewing the work of federal agencies and reporting their findings to the House and Senate. Most of their reports have a common theme: if only the federal agencies had more resources or better management and oversight, they would be be able to fulfill their responsibilities and wouldn't waste so much money. A sampling of the titles of their recent reports and testimonies give an indication that the government is failing or showing a mediocre performance on many fronts, but GAO's analysts excel at finding ways to put as positive a spin as they can on wasteful or redundant programs:

  • Information Technology Reform: Progress Made; More Needs to Be Done to Complete Actions and Measure Results.
  • Uranium Mining: Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight of Financial Assurances.
  • Bureau of the Public Debt: Areas for Improvement in Information Systems Controls.
  • Defense Management: Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies.
  • Homelessness: Fragmentation and Overlap in Programs Highlight the Need to Identify, Assess, and Reduce Inefficiencies.
  • Indigent Defense: DOJ Could Increase Awareness of Eligible Funding and Better Determine the Extent to Which Funds Help Support This Purpose.
  • Workplace Safety and Health: Better OSHA Guidance Needed on Safety Incentive Programs.
  • Department of Health and Human Services: Opportunities for Financial Savings and Program Improvements in Medicare and Medicaid Remain.
  • Social Security Administration: Technology Modernization Needs Improved Planning and Performance Measures.
  • Defense Inventory: Actions Underway to Implement Improvement Plan, but Steps Needed to Enhance Efforts.
  • Defense Logistics: Improvements Needed to Enhance DOD's Management Approach and Implementation of Item Unique Identification Technology.
  • Limited Data Available on USDA and Interior Attorney Fee Claims and Payments.
  • Tactical Aircraft: F-22A Modernization Program Faces Cost, Technical, and Sustainment Risks. 
  • Federal Telework: Program Measurement Continues to Confront Data Reliability Issues.
  • Workplace Safety and Health: Multiple Challenges Lengthen OSHA's Standard Setting.
  • Housing Choice Vouchers: Options Exist to Increase Program Efficiencies.
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems: Improved DOT Collaboration and Communication Could Enhance the Use of Technology to Manage Congestion.
  • DOD Financial Management: Implementation Weaknesses in Army and Air Force Business Systems Could Jeopardize DOD's Auditability Goals.
  • Defense Health Care: Applying Key Management Practices Should Help Achieve Efficiencies within the Military Health System.
  • U.S. Postal Service: Mail Processing Network Exceeds What Is Needed for Declining Mail Volume.
  • Federal Advisory Groups: DOT and DOE Can Take Steps to Better Assess Duplication Risk and Enhance Usefulness.
  • Operational Contract Support: Management and Oversight Improvements Needed in Afghanistan.
  • Mortgage Financing: FHA and Ginnie Mae Face Risk-Management Challenges.
  • Endangered Sea Turtles: Better Coordination, Data Collection, and Planning Could Improve Federal Protection and Recovery Efforts.
  • Department of Homeland Security: Continued Progress Made Improving and Integrating Management Areas, but More Work Remains.
  • Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. Government Financial Statements: The Federal Government Faces Continuing Financial Management and Long-Term Fiscal Challenges.

Something to ponder next time you here a politician talking about the need for a new federal program when we can't effectively operate many of those already established.

 

 

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NTUF Release GOP Presidential Candidates Studies
Posted By:  - 04/26/12

In case you missed it...


Study of GOP Candidates’ Platforms Finds Romney Proposes Double Gingrich’s Budgetary Savings; Paul’s Blueprint for Cuts Dwarfs Others’ Plans

(Alexandria, VA)Mitt Romney’s spending cut agenda is twice as large as Newt Gingrich’s, while Ron Paul proposes double the reductions of his nearest challenger. Those are just some of the key findings of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s (NTUF’s) in-depth, line-by-line analysis of the 2012 GOP contenders’ federal budget proposals. NTUF has conducted studies of Presidential and Senatorial candidates’ fiscal policy platforms for more than a decade.

NTUF analyzed all of the candidates’ key proposals outlined on their websites, in their official campaign documents, and touted in speeches. By referencing these plans with equivalent bills in Congress, items in the federal budget, and a variety of other cost sources, NTUF builds a comprehensive picture of the bottom line impact of the candidates’ budget-focused proposals. Some cost estimates are based on NTUF’s BillTally system, which since 1991 has served as a resource on thousands of pieces of legislation introduced each year that could affect federal expenditures.

All told, NTUF identified 151 proposals among the four Republican Presidential office seekers with a potential impact on annual federal outlays. Ninety-four of those impacts could not be accurately determined, generally because the candidates failed to provide sufficient detail to pinpoint a cost.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Spending Analysis

Type of Proposal

Newt
Gingrich

Ron
Paul

Mitt
Romney

Rick
Santorum

Spending Increase

6

2

3

6

Spending Cut

6

6

11

16

Unknown Cost

27

13

28

27

TOTAL

39

21

42

49


Source:  National Taxpayers Union Foundation

According to NTUF, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney’s platform would reduce federal outlays by a net of $353.0 billion annually, Newt Gingrich’s extensive policy plans would shed $146.2 billion from the budget, and Rick Santorum had $670.6 billion in cuts on his radar prior to ending his campaign. Ron Paul seeks $1.2 trillion in yearly net reductions.

2012 Republican Presidential Candidate Spending Analysis

(Dollar Amounts are in Billions)

Spending Category

Newt
Gingrich

Ron
Paul

Mitt
Romney

Rick
Santorum

Economy, Transportation & Infrastructure

-$4.565

-$4.565

-$4.3

-$4.565

Education, Science & Research

-$60.056

N/A

N/A

$0.144

Energy, Agriculture & Environment

-$40.561

-$5.953

Unknown

-$2.465

Federal Government Reform

Unknown

-$1,173.0

-$383.409

-$647.158

Health Care

-$41.155

-$40.235

-$136.098

-$42.655

Homeland Security & Law Enforcement

$0.120

Unknown

Unknown

$1.148

National Security & International Relations

$0.052

Unknown

$170.802

$30.591

Veterans

Unknown

$2.704

N/A

N/A

Miscellaneous

N/A

N/A

N/A

-$5.637

TOTAL

-$146.165

-$1,221.0

-$353.005

-$670.597


Note:  Totals may not add due to rounding.

Source:  National Taxpayers Union Foundation

Key findings include:

  • Romney's plans to reform the federal government -- including proposals to limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP and to reduce the number of government workers over time -- would save taxpayers an estimated $383.4 billion per year. The area in which Romney would propose the largest budget increase is national security with a boost of $170.8 billion. (PDF version)
  • Ron Paul’s single largest savings item is his multi-pronged effort to balance the budget – at $1.078 trillion in reductions, it is a stark reminder of the size of the current federal budget deficit. (PDF version)
  • Newt Gingrich’s moon base plans would cost at least $4 billion per year. His vision for new rocket propulsion technology could not be quantified at this time. (PDF version)
  • Rick Santorum’s largest individual savings item was signing off on a version of a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, which would save $519.6 billion per year. A major assumption was that Santorum would abide by the terms of the Amendment he backed, which calls for limiting total federal expenditures to 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product. (PDF version)

“The field of candidates has often changed over the past year, but their ideas for federal spending and savings will continue to be debated as the campaign season evolves,” concluded NTUF’s Director of Congressional Analysis Jeff Dircksen. “Through it all, NTUF will be monitoring the candidates’ proposals – including those of President Obama – to inform the vital national conversation about the future direction of Washington’s fiscal policy.”

Note: The detailed NTUF analyses of Mitt Romney’s, Newt Gingrich’s, Ron Paul’s and Rick Santorum’s federal budget policy platforms are available online at www.ntu.org.

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