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The Late Edition: November 21, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/21/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Political dues: The Pennsylvania teachers union has diverted $3.2 million in taxpayer funds to lobbying and spent another $2 million to give directly to candidates running for office. Other unions in the state have spent millions on political causes as well. Watchdog Wire has more.

Subsidy tax: The state of Nevada is being forced to raise nearly $16 million in new taxes to pay for Obamacare subsidies for the higher than expected number of recipients. More information at the Franklin Center.

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Obamacare’s Deficit Promise a Lingering Myth
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/21/13

ocareWe’ve addressed this before, but claims about “Obamacare” being deficit neutral are STILL heard to this day. In an effort to once again diffuse this misconception, let’s examine how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been scored over time – for anyone citing old numbers, this should put to bed any “deficit-neutral” talk.

For those inclined to believe the President, its understandable why they might echo his original claims on the subject. In September 2009 the President claimed "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either now or in the future."

While budget gimmickry allowed for Congressional Budget Office scores that backed these statements, anyone paying attention over the last three years should know better – there’s that word again!

Just before the law was passed in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the law would save $130 billion over its first decade.

We started the saga of these Affordable Care Act claims with that CBO estimate, yet when picked apart, it was revealed to be rather concocted for a number of reasons.

First, the package given to the CBO ignored what’s dubbed the “doc fix”. This $371 billion Medicare reimbursement cut for doctors is routinely delayed or “fixed”, meaning Medicare habitually ignores it and spends the ever increasing sum anyway. Not including this hefty price in government healthcare artificially lowers its total cost by compartmentalizing the spending in multiple bills.

The law also double counted about $70 billion in savings from the CLASS Act, along term care program. Finally, the CBO is forced to assume that Congressional projections for health spending will be abided by and not dumped out of political convenience, another dubious notion.

As the law came ever closer to implementation, the delay in the employer mandate happened. This will cost as much as $10 billion as expected fines are not collected over the year-long postponement, according to CBO. The mandate delay is also expected to push additional Americans into the federally subsidized exchanges, which would push costs up by as much as $5 billion more.

Now, CBO has revised its ten-year cost estimate for Obamacare to upwards of $180 billion.

The CBO report is paired with a Government Accountability Office report from January which maintains most of the supposed savings from the ACA are contingent on cost saving mechanisms and assumptions that place the political burden on Congress to maintain. The GAO “expressed concerns” about the will of Congress in this regard. That same report calculated the ACA would add an additional $6.2 trillion to America’s long term deficit.

This information should preclude any claims that Obamacare is deficit-neutral or even reduces the deficit. Unfortunately, we have to keep saying “should”, which means the parties guilty of continuing these claims are likely to continue, and we can keep calling them on it.

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House to Vote on “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act”
Posted By: Nan Swift - 11/20/13

The House of Representatives plans to take up H.R. 1900, the “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act” tomorrow. Authored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the bipartisan legislation “aims to expedite the federal review process for natural gas pipeline permit applications.” Like the “North American Energy Infrastructure Act,” a bill that targeted cross-border pipelines and transmission lines, H.R. 1900 would streamline the permitting process for natural gas pipelines, putting in place commonsense deadlines and guidelines to remove the regulatory limbo where many projects find themselves.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report from February 2013, found that the many stages and steps of the permitting process, that often vary from state to state, can quickly bog down projects. The GAO explains that “for those projects that were approved from January 2010 to January 2012, the average time from pre-filing to certification was 558 days…” As natural gas exploration booms around the country, moving that natural resource from one point to another is a crucial component to the growth and sustainability of the industry.

From a consumer perspective, expediting the pipeline approval process means greater availability of an increasingly abundant and relatively low-cost energy source. To understand what greater pipeline capacity could mean for consumers, look no further than New England, where many suffer from high energy prices, especially in the winter, as the Boston Globe reports:

The projects come as New England struggles to address growing demand for natural gas and supply constraints created by tight pipeline capacity. Those constraints have led to shortages and price spikes during the peak demand periods, such as extended winter cold snaps, helping to drive the region’s already high energy costs even higher.

Over the last decade, the amount of electricity in the region produced by natural gas has risen from about 15 percent to more than 50 percent, said Gordon van Welie, head of ISO New England, the region’s grid operator. In Massachusetts, natural gas accounts for 67 percent of the state’s electricity generation, and is also used to heat half the state’s homes.

“Some days there just isn’t spare gas to be sold,” van Welie said.

Additional pipeline capacity, van Welie added, would help alleviate the issue and could also lead to lower energy costs in New England …

As NTU wrote regarding the aforementioned “North American Energy Infrastructure Act,” when it comes to giant infrastructure projects such as natural gas pipelines, “the planning, personnel, and capital all depend on a transparent, predictable, and consistent regulatory environment.” By smoothing the regulatory hurdles and creating an environment of certainty for investors, H.R. 1900 would give consumers increased access to low-cost energy options and spur job-growth in an essential sector of our economy. NTU urges all Representatives to vote “Yes” on H.R. 1900.

 

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The Late Edition: November 20, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/20/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Pentagon audit: Reuters recently published an investigation on Defense Department spending and found no audits have been performed for almost 20 years, resulting in billions of taxpayer dollars to go wasted on unneeded or wasteful projects. In that span DOD has spent $8.5 trillion.

The War on “isms”: The Department of Education has spent over $20 million to develop ‘Equity Assistance Centers’ for the purpose of combating “all of the –isms, like racism, ableism, orientation, etc.” Read more on CNS News.

Pro-tax study: The Small Business Administration has awarded $80,000 of taxpayer money to promote a pro-Internet sales tax study.  The study advocates for passage of the ‘Marketplace Fairness Act’. More information at R Street.

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Obama Flip-Flops on Healthcare Plans, and Independence Institute’s Linda Gorman - Speaking of Taxpayers, Nov. 14
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 11/20/13

Can he do that? Pete & Doug react to the President's pledge to not enforce rules on "inadequate" health care plans for one year, plus Linda Gorman of the Independence Institute joins the podcast to talk about those developments and the big taxpayer victory in Colorado!

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Who Paid for Washington’s Boom?
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 11/19/13

In case you hadn’t noticed already with all the news over recent years about the D.C. area’s rising real estate prices, or new status as a millennial hotspot, or the city’s weathering of the recession, the Washington Post’s feature story on the beltway’s decade-long boom should bring the point home.

Certainly there are other regions that have done just fine during the “Great Recession”, an oil and gas boom in North Dakota has created thousands of jobs, while Texas has worked to maintain a friendly business environment, fostering new business, and snagging existing businesses from tax-heavy states like California.

Yet, these states earned that growth, Washington, D.C. has a better trick: let someone else earn it. Thus, as the Post points out, government spending and power fueled this growth in the District, and that means taxpayers.

The Post writes:

“Two forces triggered the boom.

“The share of money the government spent on weapons and other hardware shrank as service contracts nearly tripled in value. At the peak in 2010, companies based in Rep. James Moran's congressional district in Northern Virginia reaped $43 billion in federal contracts — roughly as much as the state of Texas.

“At the same time, big companies realized that a few million spent shaping legislation could produce windfall profits. They nearly doubled the cash they poured into the capital.”

Since 2000, and including 2013 projected revenue, the federal government has taken in $31 trillion in revenue – still managing to run a deficit all but two of those years… It won’t comfort taxpayers much that another $8.2 trillion was thrown on to the credit card after the last surplus in ‘01.

The long and short of it is that while D.C. has been living it up, taxpayers throughout the rest of the country have provided the backing for the good times being doled out through federal contracts, not to mention rising costs for government workers and programs like the stimulus.

The increase in lobbying expenditures may seem less connected to the direct flow of cash into Washington at first glance, but it is clearly no coincidence that a growing government would offer more opportunity – or require it from any business reluctant to take part – for lobbying.

We all pay the price for a system that is increasingly based on power and favor trading, rather than fostering a market system that truly responds to the needs of individuals.

The Post takes a somewhat optimistic track on how cottage industry built around this spending boom may lead to new private sector-only entrepreneurship. But will the taxpayers who provided a decade of seed money while dealing with a struggling economy see any return on that “investment”?

It’s an unwieldy example, however, it’s worth remembering that in the old Soviet Union the big cities starved the countryside to insulate themselves from the country’s economic failures (heck even in the currently-popular Hunger Games series we see a capital city’s excess maintained on the backs of an oppressed outer population).

That’s not to suggest that’s precisely what’s happening, those examples and more simply illustrate why this sort of trend is worth keeping a cautious eye on.  

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: $8 Billion in Community College Grants
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 11/18/13

Tab Insert

Community college coursework is often promoted as a less expensive and more accessible option for many students to pursue higher education. In the latest edition of the Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF analyzed a bill that would fund $8 billion worth of grants for these programs.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN) introduced H.R. 2560/S. 1269, the Community College to Career Fund Act, to fund partnerships between community colleges and private businesses. The bill would provide $2.7 billion per year over three years, which would help create paid internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training programs for community college students. Businesses looking to hire skilled workers could receive additional funding based on a pay for performance model that sponsors say incentivizes partnerships to help create permanent jobs. The proposal is identical to one that President Obama offered in his own budget.

In addition to that bill, the latest edition of the Tab also features:

  • Rep. Tom Marino's H.R. 2641, the Responsibility and Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act of 2013, would streamline environmental assessment procedures. It would cost $5 million over 5 years, or $1 million per year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) introduced H.R. 1787/S. 842, the Rural Hospital Access Act of 2013, earlier this year. Since then, NTUF has updated its cost estimate for the bill, which would require $400 million in the first year of implementation. The bills have the support of 65 cosponsors in the House and 26 in the Senate.
  • Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has proposed S. 1563, the Biofuels Market Expansion Act of 2013, which would provide $1 billion over five years to fund ethanol fuel pump installations at gas stations across the country, as well as pipeline construction for biofuels and additional federal regulations.

For more on these bills as well as a roundup of NTUF's other recent work, check out the tab online (and be sure to subscribe to our mailing list for future updates).

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The Late Edition: November 18, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/18/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Illegal RX waste: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) paid out nearly $29 million in prescription drugs to just 4,139 illegal aliens from 2009-11. The results were discovered by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General. More details at CNS News.

Movers and wasters: An Ohio company that specializes in the transportation of citizens with disabilities overcharged the state’s Medicaid over $1 million. Auditors found hundreds of cancelled trips that were reimbursed and hundreds more that were not authorized as medically necessary. ABC 6 has more.

Indoor air waste: The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for $4.5 million to study the affects of climate change on indoor air quality. The request came in a 20-page document illustrating “funding opportunities”. See more at CNS News.

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The Late Edition: November 14, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/14/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Robotic harvest: The Department of Agriculture has awarded more than $1.1 million of taxpayer money to the University of California, Davis in order to develop robots that would help harvest strawberries. A professor from UC Davis explained the project, ““It is a harvest aid robot. It is aiding the harvesters, so it’s not a machine that is harvesting or picking berries itself.” Read more at CNS News.

Tax mess: The Hawaii Department of Taxation is under investigation for numerous instances of waste and mismanagement. Infractions included wasting taxpayer dollars on old technology, employees illegally accessing records, and fraudulent contracts. More details on Watchdog Wire.

Subsidized boom: Amid record demand for residential expansion in Cincinnati, an analysis from WCPO shows that taxpayers have subsidized 41 percent of the boom in development. This included millions spent on “tax abatements, capital grants, free land and forgivable debt.” 

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New bill to force disclosure in government advertising
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/14/13

Amid the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent to advertise for the new healthcare law, a new bill has been proposed in order to shed light on the funding sources that make these ads possible. The Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2013 was recently introduced by Rep. Billy Long (R-MO) and has already garnered 110 cosponsors.

Current law does not require any advertisement sponsored by an executive branch agency to stipulate its use of taxpayer money. The Taxpayer Transparency Act would require that any advertisement in print, online, on radio, or on television post a disclaimer at the bottom of the commercial denoting its use of taxpayer funding with the phrase “Paid for at Taxpayer Expense”.

The five page bill would also mandate that these disclaimers must be a reasonable size on TV and print or spoken clearly on radio. Any compliance cost associated with this measure would be taken from an agency’s existing advertising budget.

While the measure does not have any singular intent, the large sum being spent on the Obamacare ad rollout is surely a prime example. A July Associated Press review predicted that the Obamacare ad blitz would cost nearly $700 million.

Last month, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services spent $12 million to advertise on air in mostly red states. Perhaps more disconcerting to some is the $67 million dollars spent on “navigators” in states across America. These employees, paid with taxpayer money, came up with the now infamous “brosurance” marketing campaign in Colorado.

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