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986 Billion Shades of Grey: Debt Deal Dodges Big Decisions
On the evening of October 16th, Congress sent H.R. 2775 to President Obama, who promptly signed it into law. The legislation temporarily restores funding for certain parts of the federal government and suspends the debt limit. Though many members of the political and economic community greeting this development with relief, passage of H.R. 2775 isn’t cause for a celebration – it contains mixture of both good and bad policies. More than anything, the bill buys Congress a few additional months to work on the most critical fiscal issue facing the nation: the long-term debt crisis.
When it comes to the federal debt, fiscal conservatives should be disappointed by the bill’s failure to meaningfully address the problem. Tackling the issue isn’t easy, as it requires reforms to popular programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but doing so is imperative for the nation’s fiscal well-being. The agreement provides barely a glimmer of hope for entitlement reform by requiring House and Senate negotiations on a budget. Taxpayers should demand much more from Congress. Between now and February 7, when the debt ceiling will need to be readdressed, lawmakers should pursue spending reductions in an amount that is at least commensurate with the debt ceiling hike.
On the positive side, the bill preserves the sequester – although it could have been better in this regard. It funds the federal government at a rate of $986 billion, which is higher than the sequestration spending cap of $967 billion. Congress should have simply reduced funding to the statutory requirement, but instead chose to rely on the sequestration mechanism to bring spending in-line with the law. This is acceptable – as long as Congress keeps the sequester in place. To make sure they do, taxpayers must be extremely vigilant, as many big-spenders in Washington are already working to undo it. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reportedly rejected a proposal that would have given the executive branch more flexibility in adjusting to the cuts precisely because he feared doing so would make it more difficult to trash the sequester. Keeping the sequester spending caps in place will be one of the biggest policy battles over the next several months. You can help NTU’s efforts to “Keep the Caps” by clicking here.
Oftentimes when Congress considers “must-pass” pieces of legislation, Washington lobbyists frantically try to tack on unrelated bills or amendments that benefit their clients. Thankfully, H.R. 2775 did not contain any major extraneous provisions, like the Internet sales tax or an extension of the Farm Bill. However, it did include a number of smaller, unnecessary add-ons. For example, the bill featured a $2.9 billion authorization for a dam project in Kentucky. Also included was a $174,000 payout to the widow of the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg. While it is customary to provide a year’s salary to the families of deceased lawmakers, in light of the Lautenberg family’s vast wealth, other benefits available to survivors, and the urgent nature of this bill, Congress could have foregone this extra payment.
On the issue of revenues, taxpayers may have dodged a bullet on H.R. 2775. It contained no new taxes or, as they are sometimes called, revenue-raising “loophole closures”. Once again, taxpayers must be vigilant on this issue. As Congress looks to reduce debt, many left-leaning politicians will attempt to hike taxes despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office expects that revenues will soon exceed their 40-year averages. Please stay tuned as NTU will be engaged on this important issue and will need informed citizens like you to help us fight against tax hikes.
Overall, H.R. 2775 was a mixed bag of policies – good, bad, and ugly. Now that passage has occurred, it’s time for Congress to really get to work. Tell your elected officials to pass meaningful reforms to entitlement programs and Keep the Caps by protecting the sequester.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Today’s Post-‘Shutdown’ Taxpayer News!
The ‘less than 1 percent’: A study published in The Hill today shows that the dysfunctional Obamacare website has only enrolled 36,000 people out of over 9 million visitors during the first two weeks. Web traffic to the site is also plummeted 88 percent.
Duplicate lines: In an effort to provide high speed internet access to Colorado schools, the federal government authorized the laying of 32 miles of fiber optic cable lines right next to two commercial lines already feeding schools in Colorado. The cost of this duplication is around one million dollars. Read more at FedScoop.
High speed scheme: The latest filing on California’s $9 billion bullet train reveals the project remains financially unrealistic. A Superior Court judge had previously charged the High Speed Rail Authority with failing to meet spending limits set out in the 2008 bond measure approving the system. More details at the Riverside Press Enterprise.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
On Monday, NTU Foundation released a line-by-line study of what Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan would support if elected as Senator of New Jersey. We found that, of the policies we were able to quantify and score, Mayor Booker would increase spending by $33 billion and former Mayor Lonegan would decrease the federal budget by $68 billion. However, that's not the whole story. Both candidates had large holes in their agendas by either offering proposals that were too vague to be matched with current legislation or CBO cost estimates or they failed to even address an issue category (both said nothing regarding changing veterans programs).
What you should take away from this study: While it appears that Booker would grow the federal government and Lonegan would shrink it, both needed to offer taxpayers more information and details on exactly what they would do. This is something that plagues many campaigns and races, be it Senate races in 2010 or the 2012 GOP primaries. Both candidates touted themselves as the best choice for New Jersey and for improving the lives of Americans but neither laid out how they would accomplish such goals.
What you should espeically pay attention to: The largest proposal of each candidate. Booker would seek to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that has already worked its way through the Senate. The bill would increase spending by $20.2 billion each year and, similar to previously introduced measures, would increase border security spending and remake the immigration process. Lonegan has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which NTUF found would result in a $63.9 billion spending decrease each year.
Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 16
Toll hunt: The Texas Department of Transportation is releasing the names of almost 28,000 violators of the state’s highway tolls. The move comes as the state attempts to gain back nearly $27 million in lost revenue. Read more at KWTX.
Insurance overpay: Fluctuations have been found in the insurance plans for Memphis city and county government employees. Memphis city council chair Edmund Ford, Jr. reported that due to the area’s multiple insurers, the cost of employee insurance is $58 million. If all government employees were on a single plan, the cost would be significantly less. More at WMCTV.
Quadruple contracts: The Government Accountability Office recently reported the Department of Health and Human Services had four “potentially duplicative investments” in enterprise security systems costing taxpayers over $256 million. The department has said they will look into the matter. Read more at FedScoop.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Infographic: New Jersey Senate Candidate Proposals
Today, NTU Foundation released its analysis of the two frontrunners' proposals in the New Jersey Senate race. Highlighting how Cory Booker and Steve Lonegan would change the federal budget, NTUF offers a wealth of information:
The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) was a law passed by Congress and President Obama during tense negotiations over the “debt ceiling.” The intent of the law was to provide fiscal discipline and reduce the long-term debt. One of the most important things the BCA did was to create discretionary spending caps to reduce the amount of money Congress can expend. When Congress can’t meet these caps, a mechanism called the “sequester” automatically reduces discretionary spending in an across-the-board fashion. While far from perfect policy, the BCA and sequester are important tools to rein in Washington’s out-of-control spending.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Spending is falling: Spending is on track to fall below $3.45 trillion by the end of FY13. This is the first time, since the end of the Korean War, federal expenditures have fallen two years in a row.
It’s important to remember though, that the sequester is only the first step toward getting our fiscal house in order. Larger bills loom on the horizon in the form of mandatory entitlement spending that threatens to bury our nation in debt. That’s why it’s so essential that we make the tough choices now, before the debt becomes unmanageable. There’s still a lot of work to do, but we must start by urging Washington to “Keep the Caps!”
To learn more about this important issue and take action, visit KeeptheCaps.com.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
NJ Senate Race: Booker, Lonegan Separated by $101 Billion
On Wednesday, New Jerseyans will vote in a special election to decide who will replace outgoing U.S. Senator Jeffrey Chiesa, a Republican and former state attorney general who was appointed by Governor Chris Christie to fill the seat vacated after Frank Lautenberg's death in June. Ahead of the election, National Taxpayers Union Foundation has released its line-by-line analysis of the proposals made by the leading candidates: former Newark mayor Cory Booker, who won the Democratic nomination in August, and his Republican challenger Steve Lonegan, the former mayor of Bogota.
During any election cycle, candidates propose and debate a variety of policies, which can give voters some insight into how they would spend (or save) the tax dollars they send to Washington. Unfortunately for taxpayers, it can be difficult to translate these proposals into specific dollar figures. Using data and methodology from the BillTally project, NTUF has analyzed the campaign promises of would-be Senators and Representatives since 2000 in order to make the budgetary implications of their agendas clearer for interested voters.
For the New Jersey election, NTUF sifted through each candidate's official campaign materials, public statements, and media appearances in order to determine which of their proposals could affect federal spending.
For links to analyses of each candidate's proposals, as well as a number of summary graphs and other information on the studies, check out today's special edition of the Taxpayer's Tab online here.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
That’s right, NTU is headed to New Orleans for another Keep the Caps event!
After a successful luncheon and protest in Little Rock, Arkansas, we’re excited to be partnering with our Louisiana friends from The Hayride blog and American Voice PAC next week to spread the word about Washington’s spending problem.
Here’s the plan:
We will gather outside Ernst Cafe at 3:30pm and walk four blocks toward Senator Landrieu's New Orleans office for a rally and protest. Shortly after, we will head back to Ernst Cafe for free food, beverages, giveaways, and more.
Our message? It’s past time to get a grip on out-of-control national debt and spending.
Just two years after creating common-sense, bipartisan caps on federal spending, some politicians in Washington, including Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, are trying to change the law and undo these sensible, bipartisan caps so they can continue to play games with your tax dollars.
The modest spending restraint of 3 cents on the dollar, imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011, is an important step in reining in our nation's out of control spending. So far, the sequester has been a success, with federal expenditures falling two years in a row – the first time since the end of the Korean War.
On October 17, Louisianans have an opportunity to make their voices heard. Let's tell Senator Landrieu, President Obama, and the rest of Washington to Keep the Caps!
Be sure to grab your free ticket and RSVP by clicking HERE. Tell your friends, and we’ll see you Thursday!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 10
Website waste: The now infamous and floundering government website for Obamacare cost taxpayers over $634 million to create. Despite knowing the October 1st deadline was coming for months, the site has been marred by poorly written code, glitches, and crashes. Read more at Digital Trends.
Overbuilt Courts: A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that most federal courthouses built from 2000-2010 were built larger than Congress authorized. The GAO found 3.56 million square feet of unneeded space costing taxpayers $835 million. More details at USA Today.
Extravagant charges: The director of a Washington state educational group for low income children has been using taxpayer money to buy “expensive meals, unnecessary flights and a hotel stay in a presidential suite.” To this day, Loueta Johnson remains on the job. KIMA TV has more details.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Vikings’ New Taxpayer Funded Stadium Already Hitting Fiscal Snags
It’s the same old story, but taxpayers can’t seem to duck sports owners pining for new stadiums for their teams. Wealthy owners continue to use questionable tactics to extract tax money from fans for funding their “palaces.”
Their argument is always that a new stadium will increase tourism, which will increase sales, which will make everyone the requisite profit needed to pay back in spades the tax money spent up front. Unfortunately for the countless cities who have tried it, the bargain quickly turns into a boondoggle.
The state of Minnesota is the latest state to to push taxpayers into the publicly funded stadium trap. The state and the city of Minneapolis have thrown in almost $500 million, which is over 50 percent of the total cost of a stadium, for the Minnesota Vikings.
A previous NTUF study concluded that when public contributions represented over 50 percent of the costs, as is the case with the Vikings, the stadiums will be $65 million more expensive on average. Recently, the Vikings, the city, and their fans are finding NTUF’s finding to be all too real.
Now, Team officials say they will have to cut out certain amenities from the proposed stadium just weeks before the groundbreaking. “We only have $975 million in the budget, and there’s only so many things you can get under that number,” said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley. Among the casualties of the soaring costs is a parking garage and escalators. The team is also imposing $2,500 personal seat licenses for three fourths of the stadium’s seats. Is this an attempt to get more taxpayer money, or just part of accessing contingency funds? We’ll have to wait and see. Surely taxpayers who are shelling out more than half the stadium’s cost will not shed a tear over this “problem.”
As was the case in Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Washington; taxpayer funded sports stadiums don’t solve local woes. Owners and politicians pitch these stadiums as a ‘short term cost, long term profit’ venture for fans. But for taxpayers there’s ‘short term cost, long term debt’.
Sources: Deadspin.com, Minneapolis Star Tribune, National Taxpayers Union Foundation1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts