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Profiles in Liberty: Paul Bartow
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 07/01/14

NTUF’s interns are working hard to get taxpayers the best information available about potential federal spending changes. In the past four weeks at our Headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, the research interns have looked into over 400 bills from this 113th Congress. They spend each day looking for Congressional Budget Office reports, searching for academic and journal articles related to proposed projects, finding press releases from Capitol Hill, and contacting sponsors’ offices. This multilayered approach helps BillTally stay objective in finding how much Congress proposes to change public spending, and it shows our interns how to properly research measures that range from contentious newsmakers or overlooked program reauthorizations.

NTUF Research Intern Paul Bartow

Paul Bartow, who grew up in Batavia, Illinois, has worked on 93 separate Senate bills. In 2007, he started working at a full service car wash, where he quickly rose to be the Assistant Manager. Then, in 2010, Paul started school at Wheaton College. He graduated this past May with a degree in history, having specialized in Revolutionary American History, Classical Music, the Enlightenment, and German history. He also decided to work towards an International Relations minor along the way. Paul’s senior thesis on Lord Baltimore and the Act Concerning Religion of 1694 won the first place prize in the Jameson Critical Essay Contest at his college.

What was your most interesting job before coming to work at NTUF?

PB: I worked as a Research Intern last summer at the Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections. I spent my days studying Civil War Chaplains, and I compiled my research into a database, where each entry included biographical information, military records, and personal information. It was very interesting work.

What have you enjoyed most about living in the DC area?

PB: I really enjoy all the networking events that are offered in Washington, D.C. I also love seeing all of the sights; there are often concerts on the Capitol steps, there’s a great night life in Washington, and there are so many stately marble buildings and museums to check out. There’s always something to do in the city. I often find myself traveling to Virginia on the weekends with friends, and my favorite sight so far is definitely Monticello.

Who is your political hero?

PB: Hands down, Thomas Jefferson. He was a Renaissance man, a product of the Enlightenment, and my favorite Founding Father. He was not only a politician, but a scientist, a gardener, a statesman, an inventor, a wine connoisseur, and a traveler as well. I love his concept of a limited and responsible government, and I admire his political achievements, as embodied by the Declaration of Independence, the Bill to Establish Religious Freedom, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

How did you become interested in politics?

PB: My older brother was very influential in introducing me to politics and the liberty movement. I was already pretty passionate about free-market principles, limited government, and reduced federal spending when I entered middle school. I slowly began to realize how inefficient and wasteful government spending is, and that there are better solutions to many of the problems we face as a nation. When I began working in 8th grade, under a workers permit, I became very irritated with the amount of my money that the government was usurping and wasting. I feel that, if money is coming out of my paycheck, I want to make sure that it is being put to excellent use.

What are your career goals?

PB: I am hoping to get involved in lobbying for tax and economic policies. I’m also considering working in development for research and educational organizations. Working at NTUF is a great first step towards accomplishing these goals.

What have you learned while working on the BillTally project that has most interested you?

PB: I’ve learned just how many bills get stuck in committee. Teachers and professors always talk about this in government classes, but, now, I can directly see it for myself. It’s astounding!

What has been the most interesting bill you have researched while at NTUF?

PB: The most interesting bill I’ve researched has to be the “Do Your Job Act.” This bill would require Congress to pass a balanced budget, and Congress would be unable to take their recess if they failed at this. I have my doubts that this bill will make it past committee, but I found it to be a very interesting bill.

What advice do you have for future interns?

PB: Even if no one is available to explore the city with you, don’t hesitate to adventure on your own. My first week here, I didn’t really know anyone yet, but I rented a car a few times and went exploring. Your time here will fly by, so enjoy every minute of it. I would also recommend coming to Washington, D.C. a week before your internship starts, if you can; then, you can learn how to use the metro before your first day of work, and, many of the famous buildings, such as the Supreme Court, only conduct tours Monday-Friday, when you’d normally be at work.

Stay tuned to Government Bytes for an upcoming interview with JR Ridley. Be sure to check out our last interview with Ian Johnson.

How can you help? By supporting NTU Foundation, you help us get our interns the resources they need and your donations are tax-deductible. Contribute to NTUF & cut down on your tax burden!

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.

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Alaska Bypass: Risk Without the Reward for Taxpayers
Posted By: Samantha Jordan - 06/30/14

For the average consumer, a 12 pack of Coke may cost around $12. For some Alaskans, a 12 pack costs $15.15. But for postage stamp buying taxpayers, the cost for a 12 pack to get to an Alaskan consumer is $21. How can this be? The answer: the Alaska Bypass. 

The Alaska Bypass is a program delegating responsibility for shipping over 100 million pounds a year in consumer items—mostly groceries—to off-road Alaskan villages to the United States Postal Service. Since it’s origins in 1972, the program has cost taxpayers $2.5 Billion.

Though rural Alaskans are paying around $3 more for a can of Coke than consumers in, say, Boston, many Alaskans believe the Alaska Bypass is the only program keeping isolated villages afloat.  Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told the Washington Post on Saturday “If you talk to people in Alaska, they’re very satisfied with this service.” 

And why wouldn’t they be? One pallet that cost the Postal Service nearly $3,200, cost Alaska Commercial only about $485 in postage. The Washington Post explained that “not only is this well below commercial rates, it’s even less expensive—about 20 percent less per pound, postal regulators say—than customers anywhere else in the country pay to send a package via parcel post.”

But the Alaska Bypass isn’t just a treat for hungry Alaskans. The program has also been extremely beneficial to retailers as well. Retailers such as Coke are able to mark up their products by 30 percent or more. This is because the subsidy allows the retailers to pay the USPS roughly half of what it would cost to ship the goods commercially.

While this is all fine and dandy for Alaska and many retailers, the United States Postal Service is clearly suffering from the costs. Last year alone, the Alaska Bypass cost the USPS $77.4 Million. 

With insufficient revenues, unfunded liabilities of nearly $99.3 Billion and debt to the U.S. Treasury of $15 Billion, the Postal Service may ask taxpayers to deliver relief if they can’t cut down on expenses like the Bypass.

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Interns Learn Leadership and Life Skills
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/30/14

On Thursday, NTU and Foundation interns traveled to the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. We joined with a large group of interns from several different organizations in order to take part in the Conservative Intern Workshop. This event provided us with the opportunity to develop skills needed to start a career within the liberty movement, at the national, state, and local levels. For those still in college, these skills were addressed as they related to developing campus organizations as well as finding employment after graduation.

We spent the day listening to and asking questions about several topics, ranging from resume development to dressing for success. We also learned about how to properly manage our personal finances, create a personal brand, and network successfully. Some of the interesting tidbits of our experience included listening to the Vice President of Development, Steven Sutton, and asking questions of a recruitment panel.

Interns also received books to further their knowledge

Perhaps the most intriguing presentation for me, personally, dealt with the proper way in which to create and develop an effective resume. The presentation, entitled "A Cut Above the Rest," taught us how to effectively format our resumes and the appropriate information to include within each section so that potential employers will take notice. This was incredibly useful as I, and most likely many of the other interns in attendance, could be found guilty of committing several "faux pas" in relation to resume building. Furthermore, this particular presentation instructed us on specifically how to improve the chances that our resumes end up in the "short pile" of the mountainous collections that employers receive. All in all, "A Cut Above the Rest" helped to set the incredibly informative and practical tone for the rest of the workshop.

In regards to the Leadership Institute in general, this workshop is just one of the many events the organization hosts on a regular basis. Founded in 1979 by President Morton C. Blackwell, the Institute's mission lies in "training conservative activists, students, and leaders." To accomplish this goal, the organization engages in a multitude of activities including (but not limited to): professional development workshops, training in the establishment/development of conservative student organizations around the country, and several networking events around Washington, D.C. Indeed, the Leadership Institute excels in providing a diverse range of wonderful learning and networking opportunities for young adults.

In addition, they host a two-day Youth Leadership School at various locations around the country throughout the year. Nicknamed the "boot camp of politics," this school is an intensive training program designed to equip young adults with the tools they need "to organize and lead mass-based youth efforts for candidates and causes."

On behalf of my fellow interns, I would like to thank Intern Coordinator Jacqueline Silseth at the Leadership Institute for inviting us to this informative event. Thanks also goes to NTU's Nan Swift for making us aware of the event and of the other services provided at LI.

Thanks to Gordon Miller for writing this summary.

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: $600 Million EPA Workforce Cut
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 06/29/14

Taxpayer's Tab Update

In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spent $2.2 billion providing compensation and benefits to nearly 16,000 employees. In this week's edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF featured legislation from Congressman Morgan Griffith (R-VA) that would cut the EPA's workforce by 15 percent within three years. The EPA Maximum Achievable Contraction of Technocrats Act would eliminate over 2,300 positions at the EPA, and save about $656 million over three years by doing so.

Also in this week's issue:

  • Most Expensive: Congressman Patrick Maloney's (D-NY) School Modernization and Revitalization Through (SMART) Jobs Act would authorize $6.9 million in appropriations for public school infrastructure improvements. It was introduced as part of the "Make it in America Jobs Plan," a legislative package spearheaded by House Democrats.
  • Wildcard: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the Social Security Overpayments Fairness Act, which would prevent the government from collecting Social Security overpayments made more than 10 years old from. The issue was highlighted in a recent blog post by NTUF's Dan Barrett.
  • Florida Special Election: Curt Clawson (R) was elected to represent Florida's 19th District on Tuesday, and NTUF has an analysis of the spending and savings proposals he made on the campaign trail.

For the latest on everything NTUF, check out The Tab online.

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Profiles in Liberty: Ian Johnson
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/28/14

NTUF interns experience the benefits of both an open office environment and being able to see their work used in NTUF’s publications. Rarely do interns have the chance to meet and interact with the President and Vice President of the organizations at which they work, but NTUF interns do! Our communications interns work under the direction of the Executive Vice President, and their work can be viewed on the Government Bytes Blog. The research interns’ work of scoring bills is used in the weekly Taxpayer’s Tab and is compiled into the annual BillTally report, which helps put the most reliable information into taxpayers’ hands.

NTUF Research Intern Ian Johnson

Ian Johnson, who grew up in Wesley Chapel, Florida, is one of NTUF’s research interns this summer.  Before attending college, Ian served on a two year mission with his church in eastern Georgia.  He is now a senior at the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University, where he is majoring in Economics.  Ian enjoys traveling, and has recently spent time abroad in Ireland and Germany with his twin brother. 

Why did you choose to work at NTUF?

IJ: I choose to work here because I wanted experience working with legislation, and I thought that the knowledge I could gain about how taxpayers’ money is spent would be very interesting.  I’m taking this opportunity to learn everything I can about policy and current events.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

IJ: I love to play guitar and listen to music!  I often get together with my brother, who plays the drums, and we’ll play different music for an afternoon or evening.  I’m also often found playing soccer with friends, and I love getting together with friends and family and exploring the area or road-tripping.  

What has been your favorite part of living and working in the DC area?

IJ: I have loved being in this area where so much interesting work is done.  It’s neat that I’ve been able to see a little more of how life works in Washington, D.C. and have been able to be a part of it myself.

Do you have a personal hero?

IJ: I’ve always admired my grandfather.  He lived through the Great Depression and served in Europe during World War 2.  While in Europe, he helped to liberate the Nordhausen concentration camp.  He had such an honest character, and many of his friends mentioned how hard-working he was.  Most notable, however, was his joyful spirit.  He could always be counted on to find the silver lining and cheer up others around him. My grandmother was bedridden for 40 years, and I remember my grandfather taking care of her selflessly; this is the kind of heart and dedication which I hope to one day be known for as well. 

How did you first become interested in politics?

IJ: My interest in politics stems from my family’s involvement in the military.  Both my father and my older brother served in the military; their involvement helped me to see and start to understand what is happening elsewhere in the world.  This led me to follow current events closely.  I’ve always been interested in the study of human nature, and I’ve slowly discovered over the years that much of the study of politics is related to that. 

What has been the most interesting thing you’ve learned while at NTUF?

IJ: How to navigate through and understand legislative language.  I’ve always wanted to understand what gets passed in Congress, and I’ve been able to do that more, now, through the experience I’ve gained at NTUF.

What obstacles do you feel like you’ve overcome so far at your internship?

IJ: The most daunting thing I’ve had to overcome has been the move out to Washington, D.C.  This is my first internship, and applying for a job, knowing full well that you’ve never worked in the area before, and that the entire adventure will be completely new is scary.  But, just jumping in is the best thing to do!

What bill have you found most interesting so far?

IJ: I found a bill on sugar subsidies interesting.  The bill was slated to repeal sugar price support and production adjustment programs, and allow the money spent on these subsidies to be saved.  This bill was particularly interesting to me because I have often learned about subsidies in economics classes, and it was great to be able to do research into how much is spent on subsidies, and to which sectors of the economy this money is sent.

Stay tuned for an interview with Paul Bartow next week.  Missed our last interview?  Check out our conversation with Communications Intern Jihun Han.

Interested in learning about the other interns working at the Foundation this summer?  Want to find out what you can do to help the NTUF interns?  Check out this post.

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.


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Still No Solution on Highway Funding
Posted By: Nan Swift - 06/26/14

The Senate Finance Committee was expected to markup Sen. Wyden’s (D-OR) Preserving America’s Transit and Highways (PATH) Act today, but the vote was put on hold until after the week-long July 4th recess while the two parties continue to negotiate. The bill attempts to provide a short term funding boost for the long-troubled Highway Trust Fund, which is expected to run out of cash by late July as explains:

The traditional funding source for transportation projects has long been collected from the federal gas tax, which is currently set at 18.4 cents per gallon. Infrastructure expenses have outpaced revenue from the gas tax by about $16 billion annually in recent years, partly due to increases in fuel efficiency and a decline in driving.

The PATH Act purported to provide a $9 billion cash injection to the Trust Fund primarily by eliminating stretch IRAs (essentially raising taxes on investments and nest eggs by $3.5 billion over ten years), increasing taxes on heavy trucks, and a hodge-podge of other tax-loophole gimmicks, such as revoking passports for nonpayment of delinquent taxes.  However, a Chairman’s modification to the underlying bill issued only a few hours before the scheduled markup struck the  Heavy Vehicle Use Tax hike, which was expected to raise $1.3 billion over ten years, leaving a large gap in revenue and making it even harder for Senators to find agreement on the legislation.

This isn’t the first time the Highway Trust Fund has hit a “roadblock,” so to speak.  The fund has been repeatedly bailed out with billions from the General Fund over the past six years.  It’s clear another short-term measure is only kicking the can down the road and won’t address the program’s underlying problems. So far, lawmakers on Capitol Hill seem to be focused only on the revenue side of the ledger as one proposal after another has focused on raising taxes or even trying to find savings from the U.S. Postal Service to fund highways, truly a robbing Peter to pay Paul scenario.  However there are some commonsense steps lawmakers should take first to restore solvency to the trust fund before turning to taxpayers with hat in hand.

  1. Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act: The 1931 law requires that workers on federally funded projects of $2,000 or more be paid a “prevailing wage”—the hourly wage paid to a majority of other workers in the area. This often pegs wages to the typically high cost of union labor, artificially inflating the price of public projects and boxing less-skilled or well-connected laborers out of the job market. explains the problems with Davis-Bacon here:

Davis-Bacon is a blatant piece of special-interest, pro-union legislation. It hasn't come cheap for taxpayers. According to research by Suffolk University economists, Davis-Bacon has raised the construction wages on federal projects 22 percent above the market rate.

James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation finds that repealing Davis-Bacon would save taxpayers $11.4 billion in 2010 alone. Simply suspending Davis-Bacon would allow government contractors to hire 160,000 new workers at no additional cost, according to Sherk.

2. Stop raiding the Highway Trust Fund for non-highway projects:  The Heritage Foundation’s recent issue brief on the infrastructure funding crisis highlights the way funds are diverted to state and local projects that are outside the intended use of the trust fund:

Transit—including light rail, trolleys, and buses—marks the largest diversion. In 2010 alone, it received 17 percent, or $6 billion, of federal highway user fees, even though it accounted for only about 1 percent of the nation’s surface travel.[3] Despite receiving a portion of federal user fees for decades, transit has failed to reduce traffic congestion or even maintain its share of urban travel. For example, between 1983 and 2010, traffic volumes in the nation’s 51 major metropolitan areas increased by 87 percent, peak travel times in those areas increased by 125 percent, and transit’s share of passenger miles fell by one-fourth.[4]

The transportation alternatives program is another diversion. From FY 2009 to FY 2011, the Federal Highway Administration obligated over $3.1 billion for these activities, which included pedestrian and bicycle paths and facilities, recreation trails, landscaping, environmental mitigation, and transportation museums.[5] The current surface transportation law, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), eliminated a handful of previously eligible activities but still required a 2 percent set-aside of total highway funding to fund the remaining ones.

3. Increase privatization and implementation of private-sector innovation:  Decreasing the role of big government is the go-to solution for one problem after another, from student loans to health care to energy. Transportation and infrastructure are no different, despite the tendency of some to believe otherwise. The Mercatus Center has a recent working paper that outlines numerous ways increased privatization and adaption of private-sector technologies can address transportation costs and inefficiencies. As the paper explains:

 The funding shortfalls result mainly from the lack of basic economic principles to guide the provision of public highway and aviation infrastructure. Prices are not aligned with users’ contributions to congestion and delays, investments are not based on benefit-cost analyses, and regulation inflates operating costs.

Increased privatization would help better align use and cost and would change user behavior based on economic benefits.

Of course, the bottom line is that we shouldn’t be spending money we don’t have. The coming Highway Trust Fund shortfall has been anticipated for a long time and not only have lawmakers waited until the eleventh hour to try to strike a deal, but funds have continued to be dispersed above the rate gas tax revenues have come in.  Last-minute deal making rarely bodes well for taxpayers. We should reject tax increases and insist on a long-term solution that addresses our out of control spending problems first.


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Profiles in Liberty: Jihun Han
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/26/14

National Taxpayers Union Foundation’s communications department is always writing. Under the direction of Executive Vice President Pete Sepp and Communications Manager Doug Kellogg, the two communications interns are hard at work producing the media pieces you see on Government Bytes and in national news sources. Our goal is to introduce interns to the media relations field by having them research government programs, identify and connect with reporters and bloggers across the country, and help staff develop better ways to communicate with taxpayers.

NTUF Communications Intern Jihun Han

Jihun Han is one of NTUF’s communications interns and hails from Portland, Oregon. As a junior at Syracuse University, he is double-majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. Jihun has been interested in politics from a young age, but running for President of his high school’s Student Government Association renewed his interest in elections and campaigns, and he has since volunteered for several political campaigns in Oregon. Jihun enjoys learning Mixed Martial Arts and has competed as an amateur -- he is currently undefeated!

How did you become interested in politics?

JH: My dad was a big influence because he is a small business owner who achieved the American Dream. He came to America during the 1980s and started a local chain of grocery stores. In 1st grade, we had to do a show-and-tell presentation on anything we liked, and while most kids did their presentations on summer trips or their favorite toys, my dad encouraged me to do my presentation on George W. Bush, and his presidency to that point. I knew then that politics was going to be something I would study for years to come.

What are your career aspirations?

JH: I want to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. While I’d like to focus my career on sports, I also want to get involved in political commentary. I want to be the conservative Keith Olbermann.

What have you enjoyed most about living in the DC area?

JH: I’ve mostly enjoyed the atmosphere here in Washington, D.C. It’s exciting to work in our nation’s capital! 

Do you have any personal heroes?

JH: I admire Muhammad Ali. Not only is he considered one of the greatest athletes in history, he was also one of the first athletes to express his political views publically. He wasn’t afraid to speak his mind and was honest with the media, qualities I admire a lot in anyone.

What have you been working on at NTUF?

JH: I have been working on the Late Edition blog posts, which provide taxpayers with the latest news related to where their money is going. Each day I research different policies, from around the country and around the world, which will have an impact on spending and tax revenues. I then pool this information into a convenient list for taxpayers which is published Mondays through Thursdays.

What do you enjoy doing outside of the office?

JH: I enjoy seeing friends, but my time here in Washington, D.C. is mostly dedicated to learning all that I can from this summer and advancing liberty in my own way. I like spending time at conferences and reading up on current events. 

Why did you choose to work at NTUF?

JH: I chose to work at NTUF because taxes affect everyone; these are issues that affect our daily lives. I wanted to work in communications this summer, because I felt that this field would best prepare me for the future I hope to have in broadcast journalism. By working at NTUF, I hope to gain insight into how non-profit organizations interact with various media outlets. At school, I interviewed many different organizations for articles and broadcast wraps, so it’s been interesting (and informative!) to see media from the other side of the equation.

What has been the most interesting thing you’ve researched while at NTUF?

JH: I’ve been interested in the Yoga Tax Bill; it’s more complex than most people realize. While it does add a sales tax on fitness centers, it also includes a tax cut for middle income earners. So, it has become a very polarized issue. One side doesn’t like the bill because it’s adding a sales tax on something which is perceived as generally beneficial, and the other side doesn’t like the fact that it’s adding another tax, but they appreciate that the bill is cutting taxes for that middle income group of taxpayers.  

What advice do you have for future interns?

JH: Embrace failure. There will be times when you’re struggling with something, or it just doesn’t turn out at all how you had hoped. It’s important to recognize failures and learn from the mistakes you’ve made. Overcoming failure can make you a stronger and better person than before. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for advice about better ways to do whatever you’re working on. People are generally willing to help you if you’re struggling with something new!

Stay tuned to Government Bytes for an interview with Ian Johnson. Be sure to check out our previous interview with Research Intern Steve Adams.

Interested in learning about the other interns at the Foundation this summer? Want to find out what you can do to help the NTUF interns? Check out this post.

Thanks to Catherine Fitzhugh for developing the Profiles in Liberty series and interviewing our interns.

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Washington D.C. Approves Tax Cut Reform; Senator Rob Portman Calls for Corporate Tax Cut – Late Edition, June 25
Posted By: Jihun Han - 06/25/14

Today's Taxpayer News!

The D.C. City Council approved the so-called “yoga tax” bill on Tuesday that will enact income tax cuts, while also expanding the sales tax base. The bill passed with an overwhelming 12-1 vote. The Washington Post has the breakdown of the bill!

Senator Rob Portman has called for tax reform that includes a corporate income tax cut to keep American jobs from going abroad. Newsmax has the latest on his proposal!

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What Budget Florida’s 19th District Voters Elected
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/25/14

Yesterday, voters in the from Fort Myers to Marco Island in Florida elected Republican Curt Clawson as their replacement for Congressman Trey Radel (R-FL), who resigned in January. Curt Clawson received 67 percent of the vote with Democrat April Freeman receiving almost 30 percent. Now with the newest Member of the House of Representatives decided, taxpayers are still left with questions as to what measures Congressman-Elect Clawson will push for to change federal spending.

How might spending change with the addition of Curt Clawson to the House? It’s hard to tell. On Friday, I posted a breakdown of all of the potential budgetary measures that were proposed by the three front runners (including Libertarian Ray Netherwood). The line-by-line report took the candidates’ direct quotes and campaign materials and matched them with scored legislation and budgetary data. My conclusion: It was time for the campaigns to give Americans more details. I was only able to score two of Clawson’s proposals. Some were too broad to be directly linked with a price tag while others were unclear in exactly how they would reform a particular program or government activity. April Freeman and Ray Netherwood were not any clearer.

Now with the campaigns over with, Curt Clawson has the opportunity to clarify his positions.

What we know: Both of Clawson’s scored proposals would cut federal spending, combined by $395.8 billion for each of the next five years. One would be to cap the budget at 19 percent of GDP (-$331.9 billion) and the other would repeal the Affordable Care Act (-$63.9 billion).

What we don’t know: Quite a bit. Ten of his twelve policy items currently carry unknown budgetary changes. Here are three categories that do not necessarily include all of his proposals:

  • Block Grants: He would seek to block grant both education and Medicaid funds to the states, which NTUF could not determine if he would then decrease spending or if the measures would serve to streamline funding pathways (both could mean administrative savings as programs are consolidated and fewer federal workers are needed to oversee the more direct system).
  • Regulatory Approvals: Clawson talked at length about getting Congress more active in the regulatory approval process. There are currently three major bills that would attempt to accomplish this but the Congressional Budget Office is unable to score such measures. This is due to the conditional nature of which regulations would be kept, changed, or repealed once the procedural reforms are signed into law.
  • Flood Insurance: He said that the federal government should keep its commitments made to those participating in the National Flood Insurance Program and not change “the deal” given to policyholders. It is difficult to tell whether Clawson is supporting recently passed legislation that extends current rates while the Federal Emergency Management Agency better determines their formulas and rate maps (a $900 million five-year cost to taxpayers) or if he seeks to make the existing rates permanent (and thereby increasing federal spending by at least the $900 million).

What all of this means: Without a more complete fiscal picture, it is difficult to know what to expect from the new Congressman. Many of his proposals would likely decrease federal expenditures but it is difficult to say whether or not possible new spending would be offset by those savings. The dollar-figures just are not there right now. Clawson has pledged to bring about pro-growth tax policy, spending restraint, and to reign in out-of-control government. In order to do so, he will need legislative measures, some of which will include spending changes.

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Health Care Spending Increasing Amidst Uncertainty
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 06/24/14

For the first time in five years, the rate of growth in healthcare spending is projected to increase from the previous year. Those are the findings in a new report from major consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which forecasts a 6.8 percent growth in health industry spending in 2015. But what does that mean for consumers and taxpayers?

According to the PwC report, several key factors will contribute to more healthcare spending in 2015:

  • Better economic conditions. Although the economic recovery has been slow, the report projects that increased consumer confidence will lead to more Americans seeking medical treatment in the next year.
  • Higher costs for specialty treatments. Specialty drugs and treatment options aren't getting any cheaper in the short term, but the report notes that development of these technologies could result in long run savings.
  • Large-scale mergers and acquisitions. As larger hospitals consolidate and buy other hospitals and smaller practices, costs increase in two ways. There are the logistical and technical costs associated with hospital mergers, including investments in new IT services and data integration; these costs are usually passed on to the patient. Acquisitions of smaller physician practices also means higher costs for patients, since hospitals are able to charge insurance providers higher rates than in-house physicians.

Importantly, the report attributes a significant portion of new healthcare spending to newly-insured Americans who qualified for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will be shopping for coverage options. Next year also happens to be the deadline by which state-run insurance exchanges must become self-sufficient according to the law, but as health spending and enrollment in ACA plans is projected to grow, many states aren't sure how they'll pay those bills.

As Sarah Kliff at notes, the federal government has already issued $4.6 billion in taxpayer-funded grants to help states launch their own insurance marketplaces. At least 15 of the 17 states that opted to run their own exchanges have indicated that they will continue to do so in 2015, and in light of considerable uncertainty about how much it'll take to finance them, that could mean either:

  • continued reliance on federal grant money;
  • charging insurers a fee to sell plans through the exchanges (which presumably would be passed on to the consumer);
  • millions of dollars in new appropriations from state governments; or
  • some combination of those three options.

Regardless of which path states choose to take, significant spending will be required to keep up with increasing healthcare costs. As the PwC report notes:

"A stronger economy and millions of newly insured Americans mean an uptick in spending growth for healthcare organizations. That may be a welcome respite from recent years of budgetary pressure. But the fact that health spending continues to outpace GDP underscores the need for a renewed focus on productivity, efficiency, and, ultimately, delivering better value for purchasers."
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