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How have you fared in the aftermath of the “sequester” deadline’s passage? It’s kind of ironic that unions put Twinkies out of business just in time for the fiscal apocalypse; let’s hope our canned goods last until this tragedy is over.
What’s that you say? The grocery stores are stocked? The schools are open? Firemen and police are still on the job? Surely the TSA is not actually getting new uniforms!? (Let’s give TSA a brief round of applause for their uncanny ability to get bad headlines; do they have a public information officer?)
Well then, so far it seems like the “sequester” hits about as hard as the “snowquester.” Still, let us mourn the loss of bureaucrats’ $5,000 carpentry projects for at least a moment… That at least one loss that any American might actually notice in day-to-day life, one specific American bureaucrat, but someone nonetheless! That is however, if the administration would make an honest effort to target waste and inefficiencies in the budget before cutting anything that could be of political consequence.
Unfortunately, the “human shield” defense to sensible budget reductions is alive and well. That is, intentionally punishing the populace by stopping garbage pickup, or trying to slow down air travel, or perhaps getting rid of food inspectors rather than dropping one of the plentiful number of TSA agents or perhaps a green energy loan, anything that the public might actually be happy to see go.
Some of the broad threats:
“Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned that 800,000 Pentagon employees could face furlough, while Education Secretary Arne Duncan said 70,000 fewer low-income families would have access to the pre-kindergarten Head Start Program. And Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said travelers could face 90-minute departure delays at airports due to air traffic controllers being forced into unpaid leave.”
A recent email between a USDA official and the Obama administration shines light on the dark side of the executive branch’s efforts to make the public feel the “sequester."
In this day and age of Internet media, this diabolical and open political maneuvering and blatant abdication of responsibility, completely intended to be at the expense of ordinary citizens to the benefit of those who reap government largess and inefficiency, should not stand.
Too many media outlets played right along with the President’s “Chicken Little” strategy, proclaiming doom and gloom. The extent of this phenomenon is well outlined in this piece by Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center.
All while there are more than enough cut options available. The federal government reportedly lost $261 billion to waste, fraud, and abuse last year (you’ll recall the sequester simply shaves outlays by $85 billion).
Here at NTU we have combined with USPIRG to create two reports on bi-partisan cuts to a variety of wasteful efforts, adding up to nearly $1 trillion. Additionally, some have rightfully pointed to Senator Tom Coburn’s reports on waste as containing good targets for savings.
The sad, or hilarious (depending on your sense of humor), examples of programs too vital to trim include:
Perhaps, the epitome of the strong-handed tactics we are seeing is Department of Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano’s threats to release undocumented detainees. Yet, Citizens Against Government Waste’s Tom Schatz called out DHS for having $9 billion in “preparedness funds” – presumably so they never have to do precisely what they are now doing!
The examples go on and on. It is not difficult to find loads of examples of budget items the general population would never notice should they be slashed. It’s high time illegitimate government functions, failed programs, and waste are not protected with disingenuous fear-mongering.2 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: March 7, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU joined sixteen other fiscally conservative groups in support of the legislation introduced by Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), calling for reductions in crop insurance subsidies.
Although the sequester cut discretionary spending, as Fox News contributor W. James Antle III explains in this op-ed, it is entitlements that are the real budget busters.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: March 6, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU’s Pete Sepp discusses taxpayer-subsidized loans to rebuild areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in this WNYC piece.
The Tax Foundation explains how Obamacare taxes will be felt by all Americans, not just upper-income earners.
Today the House voted on a $982 billion ‘continuing resolution’ bill to fund the federal government beyond the March 27th deadline. Read more from the Huffington Post.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: March 5, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU’s Pete Sepp speaks out against energy tax hikes as part of sequestration in this US News op-ed.
Several limited-government organizations, including NTU, support the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act (PEPTA). Read more from Governing.com.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
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At the "sequester" deadline buzzer, what is Congress doing to try and duck the cuts? Is the world truly about to end? NTU State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk brings us key news from multiple state legislatures, and the Outrage of the Week!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Tomorrow, the sky will fall. The seas will rise. It will be Armageddon.
In other words, the federal government will experience the beginnings of a 2.4 percent cut to its $3.5 trillion budget. To most observers, such a minimal cut seems trivial, but that’s not what some politicians in Washington are claiming. The Obama Administration and its allies are trying to convince everyday Americans that these small cuts will have a disastrous an impact on our lives.
For instance, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has claimed that cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration will cause chaos at airports by requiring the shutdown of some air traffic control towers. Of course, even after the sequester the FAA budget will remain larger than it was in 2008 – a year in which air traffic seemed pretty normal. And while we’re talking about the FAA, perhaps we should ask why the federal government runs our air traffic control system in the first place. Many industrialized countries – including our northern neighbor, Canada – have privatized air traffic control. This idea has even been endorsed by former Obama budget director Peter Orszag because it could save taxpayer dollars and increase the efficiency of the system. Plus, it could prevent fear-mongering the next time budget cuts are on the table.
Or consider education funding. Education Secretary Arne Duncan blamed the sequester for mass teacher layoffs when he claimed that there are “literally teachers now who are getting pink slips.” A recent Washington Post article revealed Duncan was unable to substantiate this claim and suggests that his statement is probably false.
None of this is to say that the sequester will have no effect on our lives. Some critical federal programs could be in jeopardy. Already, the Indianapolis Air Show has been cancelled because it was not clear if the Navy’s Blue Angels could participate. Perhaps even more catastrophic, a road at Lassan Volcanic National Park in California might open two weeks later than normal. These are actual cuts, however modest. Unlike, for instance, a $2 million cut to the National Drug Intelligence Center, which the White House said would happen. As reported by Reason, this agency closed its doors last year. But that small fact won’t stop the “chicken little” crowd from telling us that the sky is falling.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: February 28, 2013
NTU’s Pete Sepp weighs in on ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion option and the relationship between states and the federal government in this Talk Radio News article.
Economist Diana Thomas of Utah State University explains how regulations disproportionally harm lower-income households in this Mercatus Center paper.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: February 27, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU joined twenty-one organizations in a bipartisan coalition to urge Congress to honor the scheduled Defense Department cuts as part of the sequester. Read the Washington Post story.
There is a risk of tax hikes in the upcoming sequester dealings, as NBC national affairs writer Tom Curry asserts.
The Heritage Foundation has compiled a short video summarizing the many tax hikes that took affect under Obama for 2013.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
As Sequester Nears, Cutting F-35 Is a Great Place to Start
Just in time for Friday’s sequester deadline, the F-35 fighter jet is back in the news to remind us that yes, Virginia, there is room to pare back the Pentagon budget. Last week’s grounding of the entire fleet, due to a cracked engine blade, was the second time in two months that flight operations have been suspended and was well-timed with a major Time Magazine article lambasting “the most expensive weapon ever built.” While NTU has long voiced concerns over several aspects of the extremely costly and extremely troubled aircraft, it’s about time others start to take notice of how the Pentagon is wasting taxpayer funds on this boondoggle.
Born out of the Joint Strike Fighter program in the late nineties, Time explains that over the past decade the F-35’s price tag has doubled to $396 billion, the program has been beset with one delay after another, and still:
Its pilots' helmets are plagued with problems, it hasn't yet dropped or fired weapons, and the software it requires to go to war remains on the drawing board.
The article goes on to describe how taxpayer funds have been abused and wasted at almost every step of the way:
It opted to build three versions of a single plane averaging $160 million each (challenge No. 1), agreed that the planes should be able to perform multiple missions (challenge No. 2), then started rolling them off the assembly line while the blueprints were still in flux--more than a decade before critical developmental testing was finished (challenge No. 3). The military has already spent $373 million to fix planes already bought; the ultimate repair bill for imperfect planes has been estimated at close to $8 billion.
Back in 2002, Edward Aldridge, then the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, said the F-35 was ‘setting new standards for technological advances’ and ‘rewriting the books on acquisition and business practices.’ His successor voiced a different opinion last year. ‘This will make a headline if I say it, but I'm going to say it anyway,’ Frank Kendall said. ‘Putting the F-35 into production years before the first test flight was acquisition malpractice. It should not have been done.’
The Pentagon and its allies say the need for the F-35 was so dire that the plane had to be built as it was being designed. (More than a decade into its development, blueprints are changing about 10 times a day, seven days a week.)
It would be easy to think that after so many years and so much money taxpayers will have a truly cutting-edge weapon at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth:
Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, the bible of the aerospace industry and a traditional supporter, published an editorial last fall that declared the program ‘already a failure’ on cost and schedule and said ‘the jury is still out’ on its capabilities.
J. Michael Gilmore, Christie's successor as the Pentagon's top weapons tester, reported in January that all three versions will be slower and less maneuverable than projected. Weight-saving efforts have made the plane 25% more vulnerable to fire. Only one of three F-35s flown by the U.S. military, he added, was ready to fly between March and October.
Read the whole thing here.
The increasing costs of the F-35 are even starting to give our allies second thoughts regarding their planned purchases of the jet. Recently, Canada announced it was reviewing plans to buy 65 F-35s – both due to the cost and potential refueling problems with the aircraft itself. Australia and Great Britain are also reconsidering their orders, while Italy has gone ahead with cuts.
So how did taxpayers get stuck with this high-tech albatross that is seven years behind schedule and 70 percent over initial cost estimates? Bloomberg.com sums this up:
It is also the defense project too big to kill. The F-35 funnels business to a global network of contractors that includes Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and Kongsberg Gruppen ASA of Norway. It counts 1,300 suppliers in 45 states supporting 133,000 jobs -- and more in nine other countries, according to Lockheed. The F-35 is an example of how large weapons programs can plow ahead amid questions about their strategic necessity and their failure to arrive on time and on budget.
Only a few years ago, taxpayers were asked to bail out private institutions because they were “too big to fail.” Now, even as we face record debt and politicians crisscross the nation wringing their hands over a mere 2.4 percent pullback in total expenditures that they are certain will doom us all, taxpayers are being forced to continue footing the bill for “too big to kill.”
Buying into the sunken-cost fallacy – throwing good money after bad – is not a path to sound policy, or a strong defense for that matter. Billions of dollars have been wasted that could have been allocated to other successful military programs, to modernization, or even to finally auditing the Pentagon (a small investment of taxpayer money that could yield big returns).
Sadly, it looks like the F-35 will continue to be with us for now:
But thanks to $4.8 billion in Pentagon contracts for 31 planes pushed out the door barely 100 hours before the original Jan. 2 sequestration deadline, much of the program will continue on autopilot.
But it does help make the point that as the “dreaded” sequester looms Pentagon spending should be on the table, because there’s plenty of room for savings. The Cato Institute has an excellent graphic here that helps to put the sequester in perspective, explaining that the coming cuts will only take us back to 2006 defense spending levels, which is still more than $100 billion over what we were spending during the Cold War. And while the sequester does call for some immediate short-term cuts in spending, military expenditures are projected to continue rising, albeit not as quickly, as we go forward.
That fact, more than the small chunk of spending restraint taxpayers get from the sequester, should strike fear in your wallet. The sequester is an important first step, but without other tough decisions and serious reforms, we still have an out-of-control spending situation on our hands. At the end of the day, as NTU Taxpayers’ Friend Award winner Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) stated, “We’re bankrupting our country, and it’s going to put us in danger.”
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AFP’s Christine Harbin on What’s Next for Energy - Speaking of Taxpayers, Feb. 22
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Americans for Prosperity Policy Analyst extraordinaire Christine Harbin joins the podcast to discuss what President Obama's recent comments on 'regulatory' cap-and-trade and in his State of the Union mean for energy policy & taxpayers. Plus the Outrage of the Week!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts