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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.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
House to Vote on “Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act”
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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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!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
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.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Latest Taxpayer's Tab: $8 Billion in Community College Grants
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:
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.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
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.”0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
New bill to force disclosure in government advertising
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.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Flashback: Rhetoric Vs. Reality Revealed Obamacare Train Wreck
The rhetoric on healthcare reform has stayed remarkably similar ever since July 2009. Even at the beginning of the Obamacare saga, we exposed the wide gulf between how reform was described and what the actual details of reform would mean for taxpayers.
Four years later, rhetoric has morphed into a cruel reality for millions of Americans who now must deal with the real life consequences of the penalties, taxes, and regulations associated with this law.
The healthcare oratory of 2009 featured words like “choice” and “options” which now ring hollow as millions of Americans are dropped from insurance plans they already liked. The much vaunted 2009 “marketplace” has been reduced to a simple, yet profound website error message. The “competition” that was promised, failing along with the site.
A lot has changed in America since 2009, and Obamacare’s rhetorical realities are now much clearer. A plan that promised so much has delivered precious little. All of it proving that the critics may have been right all along.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
2013 Review: Lingering Deficits Despite Record Revenue
As the budget committee debates how it will reach a long-term deal by the December 13 deadline, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has been compiling the numbers behind the 2013 Fiscal Year, which ended just over a month ago. CBO's recent report ("Summary For Fiscal Year 2013") shows that for the first time since 2008, the U.S. Government ran a deficit of less than $1 trillion, as it spent $680 billion more than it collected.
The small "victory" that is a smaller deficit was accomplished largely thanks to increased tax revenues. Although federal outlays in 2013 were $84 billion less than the totals in 2012, the government collected $325 billion more in taxes than it did in 2012, which means that the growth in tax revenue was over four times as much as any reduction in federal spending.
The report also confirmed that spending on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare all continued to grow at a rapid pace, even as spending on other programs related to defense and unemployment benefits declined. Those three entitlement programs each grew by over five percent, with spending on Social Security benefits breaching the $800 billion mark. The spending on these programs in Fiscal Year 2013 represented over 9 percent of GDP.
The numbers suggest that, as NTUF has pointed out before, entitlement reform will have to be revisited as a debt- and deficit-reduction measure as spending on these programs continues to offset not only the highest tax revenues Washington has had to work with in years, but significant cuts to defense spending in the wake of sequestration caps. As the latest BillTally report shows, however, Congress has seemingly lost some of its focus on finding ways to reduce spending: through the first six months of 2013, Congress proposed $3.83 in additional spending for every dollar they proposed to cut, and healthcare-related legislation was the costliest in both Chambers.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts