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Sequester’s Impact: One Job Lost, $85 Billion Saved
Posted By: Brandon Arnold - 05/09/14

Remember all of the doomsday predictions about last year’s compulsory spending cuts better known as the sequester? Many claimed this “draconian” measure would lead to economic catastrophe, as thousands upon thousands of federal employees would be fired and the government’s operations would come to a screeching halt. In fact, one study by Goldman Sachs predicted “declines in federal employment by around 100k over the next few quarters.” 

In contrast, NTU argued repeatedly that these concerns were overblown and that the bloated federal government could find plenty of ways to absorb the sequester’s modest trims.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just released a study that sheds light on the actual impact of sequestration, which cut 2013 expenditures by $85 billion.

The total number of federal job losses that occurred: one.

Yes, you read that correctly. The report states that the U.S. Parole Commission “implemented a reduction in force of one employee to achieve partial savings required by sequestration in fiscal year 2013.” According to GAO, that was the only layoff attributable to the sequester. That means Goldman Sachs’ prediction of 100,000 layoffs missed by a mere 99,999.

That’s not to say that the sequester had no effect on the government. To be sure, furloughs occurred and certain activities were delayed or otherwise hindered. But the fact remains that the federal budget is rife with wasteful, duplicative, and unnecessary spending. There is ample room to pare back federal expenditures and force the executive branch to prioritize its functions. Indeed, that’s exactly what GAO found in its study: “congressional and agency actions mitigated some potential effects by shifting funds to higher priorities while deferring or reducing funding for lower priorities.”

GAO’s study once again demonstrates that the federal government remains far too bloated. While targeted cuts to unnecessary or duplicative programs are generally the best approach to fiscal restraint, in the absence of such leadership across-the-board reductions like the sequester can also work. These findings should give momentum to the advocates of a leaner federal budget and embarrass those who predicted the sequester would cause an economic collapse.

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Jim Pettit Talks New Data on Taxpayers Fleeing High Taxes; State Update; Did Sequester Doomsday Happen? - Speaking of Taxpayers, May 9
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/09/14

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How many jobs did "sequester" actually cost the federal government? Ex-Im Bank is in NTU's crosshairs. Jim Pettit discusses his recent Human Events piece analyzing IRS data on taxpayer migration - Florida is the big winner, New York is the big loser. State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk gives us the lowdown on the states. Plus, the Outrage of the Week!

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Government Reports: A Look At The Numbers
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 05/07/14

This Congress is expecting to receive 4,291 reports from various government agencies. But a new feature in The Washington Post shows that lawmakers will actually read very few of them, if they are even written at all.

The story in The Post traces the long history of U.S. government reports, from the Mint’s annual update that began in 1792 to the 2000 law that required a briefing on the latest developments in dog and cat fur trading. Even in 1928, when there were only 303 reports to keep track of, legislators complained about the volume of reports they were sent every year.

Fast-forward a few decades and thousands of reporting requirements later, and many lawmakers and government employees have stopped reading and writing the reports altogether. Their inability to keep track of – let alone read and devote appropriate attention to – the reports is an instance of transparency and accountability gone awry, in that while many of the reports were intended to offer additional layers of oversight to government programs, they've become so numerous and overwhelming that the full benefits can simply become lost in the shuffle. One former staffer recounted to The Post how some of the thicker reports were literally used as doorstops, unread and disregarded.

The reporting carries a significant cost, both in man-hours and dollars. Although nobody can say for sure how much money is spent producing the reports each year, the last estimate made in 1993 projects it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $163 million. Combined with the fact that some of the reports are so narrowly focused (the Social Security Administration's report on printing operations) or outdated (The Post identified two required briefings on the long-since-dissolved Soviet Union), many in Washington are calling for an end to some of the more irrelevant or wasteful ones. In 2012, The White House compiled a list of 269 reports it wanted to eliminate; the House passed a bill recently that nixed 79 of them.

Although transparency and accountability are noble goals, the story in The Post shows that when it comes to government reporting requirements, there is a fine line between oversight and distraction.

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The First Missouri Income Tax Cut in Nearly 100 Years
Posted By: Lee Schalk - 05/07/14

For the first time in almost a century, Missourians will see their income tax reduced.

It’s not every day that a state legislature defies its governor in the name of pro-growth income tax reductions. But that’s exactly what happened in the Show Me State this week thanks to votes of 109-46 in the House and 23-8 in the Senate to override a veto by Governor Jay Nixon.

Last year, in a similar scenario, lawmakers were unable to buck Nixon’s rejection of income tax cuts. This time around, Republican lawmakers and a single Democrat stuck together to make income tax relief a reality.

With SB 509 in place, income taxes for hardworking Missourians will be lowered by $620 million annually, starting in 2017, and small business owners will benefit from a 25 percent tax cut. Additionally, taxpayers making less than $20,000 annually will receive an extra $500 personal exemption.

By gradually lowering the top income tax rate to 5.5 percent, lawmakers have created a more competitive tax climate amongst neighboring states such as Kansas and Oklahoma, where top marginal rates are 4.9 and 5.25 percent, respectively.

SB 509 is not on par with North Carolina’s tax reform; however, the bill represents a step in the right direction that will allow taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money to spend, save, or invest. And by lightening the tax load on small businesses, entrepreneurs will have additional resources to create jobs and expand operations. This historic tax cut package is truly a victory for the people of Missouri.

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(VIDEO) End Ex-Im Capitol Hill Event - On Capitol Hill, May 6
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/06/14

Watch the Export-Import Bank take punches from many of the 30 groups opposing its reauthorization at yesterday's event organized by Americans for Prosperity. National Taxpayers Union's Nan Swift begins at 14:04.

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The Expensive Saga of the F-35 w/ Wendy Jordan of Taxpayers for Common Sense - Speaking of Taxpayers, May 2
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/06/14

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Wendy Jordan of Taxpayers for Common Sense joins the podcast to discuss their new report on just how much the F-35 weapons program has cost you. Pete & Doug review the latest taxpayer news - and as always the Outrage of the Week!

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Ending EPA Research?
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 05/05/14

Taxpayer's Tab Update

Did you know the EPA spent over $773 million on environmental research last year?

The agency may be known for its regulations and enforcement, but it also spends a lot of time conducting experiments on how to improve air quality, reduce pollution, and mitigate climate change. In this week's edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF featured one particular bill from Congressman Matt Salmon (R-AZ) that would put a stop to those activities altogether. Rep. Salmon introduced H.R. 4482 as part of his "Shrink Our Spending" initiative, a series of bills that would end government programs that his office claims are duplicative or inefficient. If enacted, Rep. Salmon's bill would end funding for the EPA's scientific research & development programs, reducing spending by about $766 million.

We also highlighted some other environmentally-focused legislation in this week's edition of The Tab:

  • Most Expensive: Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced H.R. 3449/S. 1677 in their respective Chambers. The Innovative Stormwater Infrastructure Act would fund research related to reducing the effects of stormwater runoff, which both lawmakers say is a major source of pollution and causes significant environmental damage. The Act would cost taxpayers $350 million per year, a total of $1.4 billion over four years.
  • Wildcard: Recently, the EPA proposed new regulations for wood-burning stoves and furnaces with stricter air pollutant restrictions for manufacturers. Burning wood is a critical means of producing heat for millions of rural families, so Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced H.R. 4407 to stop the potentially costly regulations from taking effect.

For more on these bills and to see what NTUF's been up to lately (and where our research is showing up), check out the latest edition of The Tab online.

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“Ex-Im Bank is Corporate Welfare Program that should be Ended Immediately”
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/05/14

eximpic

This afternoon, NTU's Nan Swift joined many of our 30 partners in the effort to prevent the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) on Capitol Hill for an impressive show of solidarity.

Speakers from 11 different organizations spoke, highlighting the need to put an end to the Ex-Im Bank and urging action now.

Ex-Im took a beating from all angles, absorbing critiques of its opaque bookkeeping - which obscures its true costs to taxpayers - incestuous relationships with companies that benefit from its loans, the damage it causes to less politically-connected U.S. companies, and more.

NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift called Ex-Im “an anachronistic corporate welfare program that should be ended immediately," and added: “The federal government shouldn’t be propping up direct competitors for U.S. products using taxpayer-backed credit.”

Nan also hammered Ex-Im for the hypocritical situation that has the bank supporting foreign Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production in territories to which U.S. gas companies may be prohibited from exporting:

“Robust competition and free trade dictate that competitors to U.S. natural gas will and should develop their own energy resources. But the federal government shouldn’t be propping up direct competitors for U.S. products using taxpayer-backed credit - Not when our own producers are not allowed to compete on that playing field.”

Check out all of NTU's work to bring light to this dark financial entity HERE.

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On Capitol Hill, April 30, 2014: DATA Act passes, Appropriations, Min. Wage is Back
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 04/30/14

Congress has returned from a two-week recess and is back to spending (or hopefully saving) your tax dollars. Intrepid NTU Federal Affairs Manager Nan Swift has the inside scoop on what exactly they are up to...

This week, the appropriations process has started, the Senate looks at Minimum Wage - and the DATA Act heads to the President's desk.

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Presidential Choppers Get an Upgrade
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 04/29/14

You've probably seen plenty of photographs of Marine One, the President's specially outfitted Naval helicopter, taking off from the South Lawn of the White House and soaring over D.C. to wherever the Chief Executive's destination may be that day. But did you know that there are 19 of those choppers, and even after $3.2 billion worth of investment, they're still in need of upgrades?

That's the story being published by The Washington Post, which reports that the Navy is close to awarding a contract to upgrade the President's fleet of choppers (some of which are more than 40 years old). The job never got done last time because costs quickly escalated beyond what the government was willing to pay, forcing the Pentagon to cancel its purchasing plans in 2009 just after President Obama took office.

The program has only just begun, but already some defense specialists have some concerns:

"There appears to be only one bid on the project - led by the company that lost out last time - and some fear that the lack of competition could again lead to escalating costs. Another red flag: The Defense Department granted the Navy a waiver saying that bidders don't have to build prototypes, which can help to reduce cost and risks. ... While declining to provide a cost for the program, [the Navy] said it would be "significantly less" than the $13 billion price tag it reached before the previous contract was canceled. The first helicopters could be available by the end of 2020 "if everything goes ideally," [they] said."

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently defended the Navy's decision to not require a prototype, stating in a report that the costs to provide them would exceed any savings they might generate. Navy officials say they have done "due diligence" to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget, with a focus on existing and proven technology. However, some lawmakers and defense watchdogs are worried that once the project begins, there would be nothing stopping the winning bidder from scaling up the scope of the construction plans beyond an initially proposed budget. As John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org put it to The Post, "[the contractor] will sell you as much helicopter as you're willing to pay for. And nothing is too good for the president."

The Navy is expected to announce the winning bidder within a few weeks, although officials would not comment on how many applications it had received for the project. It remains to be seen whether the Pentagon can learn from its past mistakes and keep the new process as open and transparent as it claims it will.

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