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Flashback: Rhetoric Vs. Reality Revealed Obamacare Train Wreck
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/13/13

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. obamacare

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.

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2013 Review: Lingering Deficits Despite Record Revenue
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 11/13/13

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.

fy13totals

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.

cbofy13spending

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.

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

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Paper Surge: After the massive tech failure of their state Obamacare exchange website, the state of Oregon has spent $4 million of taxpayer money on paper applications. As of yesterday, the state still has not successfully signed up a single person. More details at the Daily Caller.

Death Benefits: The federal government continues to pay everything from $133 million of Social Security benefits to $3.9 million for home heating and cooling costs to thousands of dead people every year. Even worse, government systems also mistakenly list the living as deceased. In one case, a Utah man had to prove he was alive by writing “I’m alive” in person at a SSA office. The Washington Post has more.

Pricey Mayoral meals: The Mayor of Hendersonville, TN is under fire for spending taxpayer money at numerous high end restaurants. In the past six years, Scott Foster has spent more than $17,000 on meals at steak houses and hotel bars. Fox 17 has more details.

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Missile System Scores Direct Hit – On Our Wallets
Posted By: Pete Sepp - 11/12/13

After last week, it’s tough to accuse the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) missile of “failure to launch” in the technical sense. Too bad it’s long failed at fiscal responsibility.

In a town known for creating supreme ironies, last Wednesday’s successful test of MEADS at the White Sands Missile Range was among the “supreme-est”.  Hailed by its prime contractor as the “culmination of three countries working together” (the U.S., Germany, and Italy), the, ahem, upshot of the test for the Pentagon will be … well, nothing. That’s because the U.S. decided not to procure MEADS for operation in the field.

Having fallen a good ten years behind schedule and far over-budget, MEADS was already looked like a flightless bird to taxpayers, but its lack of military utility also called for its grounding. In a joint 2011 study released with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, NTU advocated ending MEADS because at the time our allies had no “plans to purchase the system when finished and the Patriot system can be expanded and improved to provide similar capabilities to MEADS.” Unfortunately, Congress kept stringing the program along, most recently through a $380 million earmark in the Continuing Resolution passed in March of 2013 intended to complete its operational testing phase and allow the U.S. to fulfill its putative obligations to its international partners. But that was to be our final taxpayer-funded journey for the “missile to nowhere.”

Many say the plug could, and should, have been pulled earlier. In a 2011 letter to then-Defense Secretary Gates, NTU argued that, “Whatever controversy there may be over the maturity or viability of MEADS, it is clear that U.S. taxpayers will gain little from a further government expenditure.” The Pentagon’s reply to our letter argued that the fees for terminating MEADS that the U.S. would have to pay to its two allies (Germany and Italy) were not worth the savings of backing out at that point.

Yet, our resourceful colleagues at Citizens Against Government Waste found a smoking gun, or perhaps more appropriately, smoking rocket motor (HT to CAGW’s clever website, misguidedmissile.org). In a statement released right after the White Sands test, CAGW noted:

"For several years, DOD officials stated that cancelling the program was prohibitive without agreement from Germany and Italy because of high unilateral termination costs.  However, a confidential DOD report to Congress obtained by CAGW concluded that the U.S. could withdraw from the contract without committing additional money or paying termination fees."

Oops. So taxpayers may very well have had a quicker way out of this mess after all.

In the we-couldn’t-have-said-it-better category, we’ll give the final word to our good friend Tom Schatz, President of CAGW, who noted:

"Taxpayers are all too familiar with DOD boondoggles that receive funding long after they are proven wasteful, and [the] duplicative test of the costly and unsuccessful MEADS program is unfortunately a perfect example. Given the DOD’s sequester cuts, and the fact that neither President Obama nor Members of Congress requested funding for the program in FY 2014, the test was a waste of federal funds that should have been allotted to fund ongoing and necessary DOD programs."

Here’s hoping that after this episode of throwing good money after bad, MEADS just keeps “on going” … away from our wallets.

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Ballot Results, plus John R. Graham Offers Insight on Shifting Healthcare Landscape - Speaking of Taxpayers, Nov. 8
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 11/11/13

Independent Institute's John R. Graham lends his healthcare expertise to the podcast as we examine "Obamacare" and more. Plus, a ballot initiative rundown and the Outrage of the Week!

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Lots of Ways to Learn About Congressional Spending
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 11/11/13

NTU Foundation is getting the word out about how Congress is planning to spend your tax dollars. For 20 years, the BillTally system has tracked every proposal introduced in the House and Senate to show taxpayers and legislators exactly what would happen if one, several, or all the active bills in Washington, D.C. were enacted. The first half of 2013 saw many bills to cut government spending but many more to increase expenditures on an annual basis. In our latest study, NTUF researchers found that Congress would grow public programs and efforts by $1.28 trillion per year. But, of course, that's not the whole story and is just one of the several findings that NTUF's research has brought to light.

Elected officials in each Chamber of Congress have laid out many different paths for the country's fiscal future. Besides consulting the line-by-line details in the full BillTally report by Director of Research Demian Brady, there are a variety of mediums for you to get the information you need to educate yourself on where Congress wants to take your tax dollars.

For the visually inclined, there are four infographics, each detailing a part of the BillTally report. If you want to see what the entire Congress or what each chamber has proposed (House and Senate), we've parsed out the data so you don't have to. An interesting fourth visualization takes a look at when savings bills have been introduced in both the previous Congress and in 2013. One of the questions we are constantly looking at is when and how cut proposals are taken up because spending reductions do not happen without legislative action.

The audio-lovers are not forgotten as Brady went on NTU’s weekly podcast, Speaking of Taxpayers, to give you the highlights and important findings of how the Tea Party has affected spending proposals and whether net agendas are following historical trends or breaking new ground. For the first time, NTUF staff exhibited our on-camera skills by hosting a Google Hangout:

Of course, there are overviews of the report in the form of press materials and in-house summaries but perhaps more importantly are some posts by Policy Analyst Michael Tasselmyer that delve between the lines. So far, he has posted on two of Congress' larger spending categories, healthcare and jobs programs, and on the timing of savings proposals. Additionally, Tasselmyer explored the differing defense budgets of the House and Senate (the findings may surprise you). Perhaps you want to know which bills would most dramatically affect the budget? We've got you covered.

Is this the first you're hearing of the many levels of BillTally analysis? If so, you can be on the cusp of Congressional research by subscribing to The Taxpayer’s Tab, NTU Foundation's weekly update. Tab subscribers are the first to see the costs and implications of bills making the headlines and generating buzz in the policy world. Not a fan of email or love NTUF so much that you want more? Follow us on Twitter and give us a shout out! And remember, there's a lot of ways that NTU Foundation helps out Americans and we're always looking for new members. Are you up for a challenge of getting government spending under control? We need you!

Was there a part of the recent BillTally report that surprised you? Post what your thoughts are on the $1.28 trillion in new spending that Congress could pass below.

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

Today’s Taxpayer News!

State website trouble: Amid the federal healthcare exchange website meltdown, the state based websites are also malfunctioning and costing taxpayers even more. An estimated $4.3 billion has been wasted in the 14 states that chose to build their own websites, including almost $1 billion from California alone. Townhall has more details.

Housing holdup: The department of Housing and Urban Development is now investigating a number of seemingly wasteful expenses by the Tampa Housing Authority. The THA spent $7 million to renovate their headquarters and tens of thousands more on travel all while claiming to not have enough funding to house the poorest citizens of Tampa. WTSP has more.

Solar Scam: A solar panel manufacturer that promised to build its plant in an Idaho town is now bankrupt after charges of fraud and racketeering were filed. The town of Pocatello spent $1.4 million to secure the land and is now out of luck. The manufacturer also received $2.2 million in federal grants. More details at the Star Advertiser.

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: The BillTally Top 10
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 11/09/13

Tab Insert

In this week's edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF continues to offer analysis and insight into the latest BillTally report, which covers the legislative proposals introduced during the first six months of the 113th Congress. The data shows that savings proposals have been coming at a slower pace than in previous sessions, and if history is any indication, we aren't likely to see many more over the next year. The total spending agenda proposed so far this Congress? $1.28 trillion.

In this week's Tab, NTUF focused on the defense-related spending proposals we identified in each Chamber. The differences between the House and Senate with respect to these bills might surprise some taxpayers, and could play into the budget committee's approach to a long-term fiscal deal over the next few weeks. For more, check out the online edition of the Tab here.

And, to round out our coverage of the BillTally release, we've put together a list of the five most and least expensive proposals we saw over the first half of the year:

Spending Cut Bills:

  1. S. 547, the One Percent Spending Reduction Act of 2013. Introduced by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY). Savings: $99.5 billion
  2. S. 173, the Simplified, Manageable, And Responsible Tax (SMART) Act. Introduced by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL). Savings: $85.8 billion
  3. H.R. 45/H.R. 132/H.R. 1005/S. 177, the ObamaCare Repeal Act. Introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)/Steve King (R-IA)/Tom Graves (R-GA)/Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Savings: $63.9 billion
  4. H.R. 779, the Access to Insurance for All Americans Act. Introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). Savings: $56.4 billion
  5. H.R. 57, a bill to make 15 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2013 and 2014. Introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Savings: $53.9 billion

Spending Increase Bills:

  1. H.R. 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act. Introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Cost: $1.16 trillion
  2. H.R. 1200, the American Health Security Act of 2013. Introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA). Cost: $824.5 billion
  3. S. 627, the Medical Innovation Prize Fund Act. Introduced by Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT). Cost: $108.5 billion
  4. H.R. 870, the Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act of 2013. Introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Cost: $100.5 billion
  5. H.R. 1617, the Emergency Jobs to Restore the American Dream Act. Introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Cost: $45.6 billion
For more information, check out the Tab online here, and be sure to sign up for future email updates.
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The Late Edition: November 7, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/07/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Electric fail: An investigation by WZZM TV showed that pouring taxpayer money into electric cars has basically failed. The federal government has spent $5 billion on this work all while charging stations, originally intended to replace gas stations, sit empty.

An expensive day’s work: A key agency in the Washington, DC education department paid almost $90,000 to a Chicago based education firm for one day of work at a conference. The cost “included a half-hour keynote speech, three 45-minute parent workshops and hundreds of copies of parenting books.” The Washington Post has more details.

Historic waste: A new study shows the Veterans Administration (VA) has ignored several federal laws surrounding historic buildings. The VA often builds new facilities instead of fixing up older ones, which wastes taxpayer dollars. More on CNSNews.

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The Late Edition: November 6, 2013
Posted By: Curtis Kalin - 11/06/13

Today’s Taxpayer News!

Massive Marshal waste: NTU’s Pete Sepp is quoted in this WSBTV article exposing the U.S. Marshals Service for the agency’s waste on gifts ranging from Christmas ornaments to silk scarves to commemorative coins. In total the Inspector General found almost $800,000 worth of waste.

Medicare mismanagement: Medicare has paid out millions of dollars to the deceased, a new Inspector Generals report found. The report tallied $23 million of improper payments to deceased Americans and those illegally living in the country. More information at Healthcare Payer News.

Call waiting: Vermont state officials found that the state wasted $272,000 on cell phones that went unused by state officials in 2012.  Of the 11 million minutes purchased by the state, 5 million were not used. More details at VNews.

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