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In this week's second infographic, we look at former President George H.W. Bush's annual office and pension allowances. These benefits are funded by taxpayers and there is still some question on exactly how much America's ex-Commanders-In-Chief are recieving eaxh year. The General Services Administration only releases Presidential retirement spening in the form of budget requests, which are not exact in what eventually is spent.
Taxpayers are also not able to see how much it costs to protect the four former Presidents. While it should not be expected to get detailed information on exactly how they are escorted and guarded by Secret Service personnel, an overall cost figure ought to be available so taxpayers can understand the full costs of Presidents after their tenure in office.
Besides the graphic below, check out a recent Taxpayer's Tab that examined the broad spending points and total costs of ex-Presidents.
Do you think that former Presidents need public dollars? Should something be cut or increased? Let us know in the comments!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
NTU has repeatedly advocated for an end to the dairy price-fixing scheme – most notably with our friends at Council for Citizens Against Government Waste via our joint “Save Your Milk Money” website.
At Reason.com, pundit extraordinaire John Stossel writes a compelling argument for getting government out of the dairy business altogether. He explains what many have been arguing all along -- that there’s nothing intrinsically different about farming or dairy production that requires government price-fixing, subsidies, or heavy-handed regulations:
Prices should be decided by buyers and sellers.
Prices are not just money. They're information. Rising prices tell farmers to produce more; that increases supply and prices go back down. Falling prices tell producers to invest in other products. This system works well for plums, peaches, cars and most everything we buy.
But bureaucrats and lobbyists say milk is "special."
[Rob] Vandenheuvel [of California’s Milk Producers Council] says cows can't be subject to market demand because "there are several years of lead time between when you decide to buy a cow and when that cow produces milk."
The [California Department of Food and Agriculture] agrees because: "Milk is a perishable product and must be harvested daily," and "Milk continues to be viewed as a necessary food item, particularly for children."
I say, so what? It's not "lead time" or being "perishable" or even being "necessary" that makes milk unique. Plums and newspapers are perishable and harvested daily. It takes long lead times to build assembly lines to make cars. No entrepreneur has a guarantee of market demand once the factory is complete. All business is risky.
Read the whole thing here.
The current milk price-fixing scheme is born out of the same New Deal-era laws that gave rise to the raisin and other marketing orders NTU highlighted only a few weeks ago. In sum, the dairy marketing order restricts supply and hikes prices for consumers.
Even worse, a new Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP) enshrined in the farm bill working its way slowly through Congress would impose a new set of top-down Soviet-style supply controls on top of already onerous dairy regulations. DMSP’s manipulative provisions are designed to increase prices for consumers on everything from a half gallon of two-percent to yogurt and ice cream. Similar plans have undermined the dairy market in other countries and hurt consumers, especially those with low incomes. However, Congress rarely lets that kind of reasoning get in the way of bad policy.
Technologies such as milk reconstitution and shelf-stable “boxed” milk make calls for supply controls and other government regulation, on the basis that dairy is uniquely “perishable,” sound more and more dated. Today, asceptic packaging keeps milk fresh at room temperature for months at a time without extra preservatives, providing an affordable way to transport and preserve dairy products in greater and greater quantities. Widely available and consumed in Europe for decades, boxed milk is gaining traction in the U.S. as well as other countries in the Western hemisphere.
Now that science has trumped these industry challenges, it’s difficult to see why the federal government should continue interfering in the milk market to the detriment of consumers and farmers alike. Even worse, Congress shouldn’t be pursuing a plan that could inflict an even higher cost.
Stossel says it best when he concludes, “Milk isn’t ‘special.’ Almost no product is. Let competition set the price.”
Click here to tell your Congressman to oppose new dairy regulations.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
In an edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTU Foundation examined the federal spending associated with the pensions and ofice expenses of former Presidents. In the first of five infographics, we highlight the benefits of President Jimmy Carter that are paid for with tax dollars.
The data was compiled using budget requests of the General Services Administration and analysis by the Congressional Research Service. One thing to remember is that these figures are requests and that actual budgetary outlays (or actual spending) are not available. We understand that a line-by-line costs of a former Commander-In-Chief's Secret Service is classified to protect their safety but taxpayers are in the dark when it comes to seeing what former Presidents actually cost in terms of their pensions, office benefits, and staff salaries.
Do you think that former Presidents need public dollars? Should something be cut or increased? Let us know in the comments!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
“Universal” Preschool Proposal a Lot Like Costly Medicaid Expansion
President Obama wants to lure states into his Preschool for All initiative (“universal” pre-K for moderate-income and middle class 4 year-olds) with the promise of $75 billion in federal tax dollars over 10 years. But while educating the next generation is a worthy cause, the President’s plan is chock-full of problems for taxpayers.
The President has suggested a 94-cent-per-pack cigarette tax hike to pay for the program – a regressive tax that would generate an unreliable revenue stream, to be sure. If the President has his way with cigarette taxes, he’ll have increased the federal cigarette tax rate by an unbelievable 500 percent. You read that right. Back when the President assumed office, the federal rate was 39 cents per pack. That all changed in 2009 when the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act was signed, upping the rate to $1.01. Tack on an extra 94 cents, and smokers would be forced to shell out nearly $2 per pack on top of their state and local rates. This is bad news for smokers and non-smokers alike, because smoking rates in the U.S. have been declining over the past 50 years, meaning that cigarette taxes should not be relied on for long-term funding.
There simply wouldn’t be enough cigarette tax revenue to keep the universal pre-K program up and running, and additional tax hikes would be necessitated. The historical precedent for this outcome is strong: as a recent report from our research affiliate determined, in roughly 7 out of every 10 cases, state-level tobacco tax hikes enacted between Fiscal Years 2001 and 2011 subsequently fell short of their initial revenue estimates. Not surprisingly, 66 out of 96 state actions to raise tobacco levies during that same period were followed by increases in other kinds of taxes within a two-year period after each instance.
The proposed cigarette tax hike isn’t the only major problem with Obama’s pre-K plan. The Preschool for All initiative also bears a striking resemblance to another troubled federal-state venture that is currently being touted by the Administration—Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” In both instances, the federal government has offered up attractive funding match rates. While half of states have resisted Medicaid expansion so far, many lawmakers and governors have bought into the idea of “free” federal money, since the federal government is offering to cover 90 percent of the costs in the long term. With Preschool for All, states would chip in 10 percent of the costs in the first two years, 50 percent by year six, and eventually 75 percent in year ten. But what’s to stop the feds from reneging on their funding commitments? For Medicaid expansion, the President has already floated the idea of lowering match federal match rates, which would leave states with a greater burden than originally anticipated. It’s not difficult to imagine a similar bait-and-switch with Preschool for All, especially once its major revenue stream—cigarette taxes—falls short of projections.
Also like Medicaid expansion, the Administration is keeping mum on the topic of long-term cost for universal pre-K. At the state level, all we’ve heard about so far is the magical first year. Minnesota, for example, would receive close to $39 million from Uncle Sam in year one and only have to kick in $4 million in state funds. In year ten, Minnesota’s share will be 75 percent, or $32.25 million, if the match rates go as planned. But many unprincipled lawmakers simply can’t resist another hit of federal cash and are willing to ignore these future state costs in order to get the program started.
For the federal government, we’re told that the program should cost around $75 billion in the first 10 years, but beyond that, who’s to say? Is this another “camel’s nose under the tent” proposal? Some in Congress have called for an even larger federal role in pre-K and so has the President. Medicaid was not originally intended to cover folks living up to 133 percent of the poverty line, but that’s exactly what the current expansion push is all about. Once pre-K for 4 year-olds is in place, there will be increased efforts to expand the program and its budget. Are taxpayers prepared for more tax hikes to underwrite it?
All indicators point to the Preschool for All initiative being a bad deal for taxpayers. Its prime target for tax hikes is smokers, and once that revenue fails to materialize, all Americans will be made to pay. Education and health care are both important domestic issues and not without their share of challenges. But taxpayers shouldn’t be fooled into thinking universal preschool and Medicaid expansion are the answers. As our economy struggles to get back on track, Americans need tax relief, and that can only happen if Washington and the states control their reckless spending habits and avoid costly programs like Preschool for All.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was passed in 2009 as one of President Obama's first major efforts to dig the U.S. economy out of a deepening recession. Designed to employ more Americans, repair aging infrastructure, and provide additional assistance to the ever-increasing number of families who needed it, the bill authorized a variety of programs that were touted as temporary, timely and targeted.
Nearly five years later, as the economy continues along the slow road to recovery, many of those "temporary" programs are still receiving taxpayer funding in spite of doubts over their effectiveness. In this week's edition of the Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF took a look at a few in particular, including:
These programs alone represent $2.9 billion in spending that was originally intended to be merely a "temporary" economic stimulus. As the late Milton Friedman said, "[n]othing is so permanent as a temporary government program."0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Gmail Users: Remember to Put Our Emails in Your Personal Tab
Yesterday, NTU Foundation reminded Tab subscribers to be sure that our emails are in their personal tab and not in the promotion tab. Google's email service recently changed how people can organize their messages but in doing so might result in The Taxpayer's Tab and other Foundation updates ending up in the promotion tab.
If this graphic is unclear or you still have questions, feel free to email NTUF with the subject line "TAB GMAIL SWITCH".0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Only in the Internet era…
A parody article is making the rounds online, and apparently causing quite a bit of confusion. The article outlines a fictitious situation where food stamp recipients can supposedly unionize.
National Taxpayers Union had nothing to do with the creation of the article, and no knowledge of it.
It has fooled enough people out there that it required clarification. Back to your regularly scheduled programming…7 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
It's no secret that modern ex-Presidents are usually very wealthy. Speaking engagements, book tours, and other private business pursuits away from Pennsylvania Avenue have earned the four living former Presidents -- Jimmy Carter, George H.W. and George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton -- substantial sums of money in recent years. So it may come as a surprise to some that these former Chief Executives are also eligible for millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded retirement benefits, including travel expenses, office and administrative funds, and a $200,000 pension. In this week's Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF examined some of the history behind these programs and how former Presidents are using the funds Congress has authorized them to use.
With the passage of the Former Presidents Act (FPA) in 1958, Congress authorized funding for certain administrative tasks associated with the President's transition into private life. The FPA was introduced in response to Harry Truman's financial difficulties in his life beyond the White House, particularly his inability to respond to the massive volume of mail he continued to receive from citizens still interested in his post-Presidential doings and opinions. The assistance given to modern ex-Presidents includes $1 million in travel expenses, health benefits (assuming 5 years' enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program), subsidized office rent, and office staff funding. Additionally, ex-Presidents are eligible for a $199,700 pension, which is tied to the salary of the head of any Executive Department.
In Fiscal Year 2012, the General Services Administration spent $3,671,000 on benefits for former Presidents. The infographic below shows the totals for each of the past 5 years, broken down by President:
In the 113th Congress, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has re-introduced the Presidential Allowance Modernization Act, H.R. 248. The bill would limit former Presidents' benefits to $200,000 per year, and do away with office & administrative subsidies, travel expenses, and reduce benefits by $1 for every dollar over $400,000 an ex-President earns in a year.10 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
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Bob Filner's scandal, settlement, & resignation may have him down for the moment, but a $59K per year, $1.19 million lifetime, pension might turn that frown upside down. Plus, retired Presidents rake in public money; and the Outrage of the Week!
New Report: Taxpayers Still Backing Contradictory Federal Food Policy
Free-marketers are well aware of “nanny state” encroachment on consumers’ food choices; many of them probably celebrated when a second court in New York recently held against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on larger-sized “sugary” drinks (even though New York City keeps contesting the rulings). What they may not realize is that nannies, especially government ones, often have an arbitrary way of exercising discipline.
We were reminded of this “do as I say, not as I do” phenomenon again thanks to an intriguing new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists on how U.S. agricultural policy is working at cross-purposes – often to the detriment of taxpayers and the economy. Among the findings of the study:
Reality-check time – NTU and UCS do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, though we have joined forces on causes such as protections for government whistleblowers and wasteful nuclear weapons spending. Nor will conservatives necessarily support every conclusion in the latest UCS report, which calls for steps such as grants to develop infrastructure for farmers’ markets or putting more money into federal research.
Still, many of the report’s assertions are quite valid, and should appeal to all taxpayers. Using respected sources, UCS calculates that in 2012, Medicare and Medicaid likely spent $172 billion total to treat cardiovascular diseases. If even a fraction of these costs could be preventable, the implications for the future of these programs would not be trifling. Combined with more aggressive action on improper payments, the savings could buy some additional vitally-needed time while we undertake the task of completely restructuring entitlements (through premium support, personal accounts, and other pro-taxpayer reforms). In any case, repealing or dramatically restricting current farm subsidies could more than offset UCS’s recommendations for new federal initiatives, thereby providing much-needed deficit reduction.
Another UCS conclusion worth considering is that USDA’s insurance program “is oriented toward farmers who grow a handful of subsidized commodity crops, including corn, soybeans, and cotton.” The adverse result is that farmers are disincentivized to diversify their crops into fruits and vegetables. Simplifying insurance to cover all livestock and crop revenue on a given farm (plus reducing the taxpayer subsidy for the insurance premiums, as NTU recommends), might make sense. In fact, diversification would help mitigate the risk of variability in crop yields and prices, thus enabling farmers to self-insure their crops and making healthy products more affordable to consumers.
Subsidizing processed food ingredients is all the more bizarre since the government is simultaneously spending whopping amounts of taxpayer money on educating Americans to eat healthy. For instance, in 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) expended $2 million on the initial development and promotion of its most recent food logo, MyPlate, which aims to teach the population what to consume.
A serious problem here is that the USDA and the lawmakers who fund it often fail to see the connection between the agency’s two tasks of administering both farm subsidies and educational programs for healthy eating.
It wouldn’t be the first time. A previous post on Government Bytes recounted findings from a U.S. Public Interest Research Group that corn- and soy-derived food ingredients have received $19.2 billion in federal subsidies since 1995, as revealed by a recent U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) report. This amount would allow the government to buy 52 million Twinkies (fortunately, that proposal is not on the table … yet). By contrast, the only significantly-subsidized fruit or vegetable, apples, received about $689 million in subsidies over the same period. This means that, for every half an apple, each taxpayer has subsidized 20 Twinkies per year.
Another problem is that neither strategy seems to be working. In regards to nutrition education, studies have shown that Americans followed MyPlate recommendations in only 2 percent of days in 2011. As for subsidies, they artificially influence consumers’ eating decisions.
Both UCS and USPIRG’s calls for action show why so many voices on various parts of the political spectrum are arguing that farm subsidies should be completely eliminated or curtailed. This chorus for reform, among taxpayer groups, government transparency advocates, international aid societies, and others, will only grow more vocal if or when lawmakers attempt to cobble together yet another flawed Farm Bill this fall. And why not? After all, since farming came before subsidies, it should be more than able to outlive politicians’ manipulations.30 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts