Taxpayer's Tab: Communications and Research Interns Needed for the Fall!

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Communications and Research Interns Needed for the Fall!

NTUF Internship OpportunitiesNTU Foundation has always been able to rely on our network of taxpayers, policy experts, and advocates to get Americans the most up-to-date figures on how officials in Washington, D.C. want to change spending. Now, we need your help once again.

We need interns for the coming fall season in two departments: communications and policy research. Past NTUF interns have been able to earn school credit for their work and gain valuable work experience. Check out the descriptions here.

Do you know a student who excels at writing, journalism, or media outreach? NTUF currently has positions open for interns looking to develop the necessary skills to communicate complex issues and research findings to the public, Capitol Hill, and to reporters on the local, state, and national levels. We are also looking for interns who are adept at video and graphic design to help us creatively showcase our research!

NTUF Internship OpportunitiesNTUF's renowned policy team needs students or recent graduates to help us score every introduced bill in the 113th Congress – with thousands of bills introduced each year, we have our hands full! Research interns will work alongside seasoned staffers to provide fiscal transparency to taxpayers and elected officials. Applicants should be excited to analyze legislation, U.S. Code, and many department and agency budgets.

Don't know any young adults? We can still use your help! When our fall interns come to NTUF Headquarters, they will need supplies, support, and the occasional cup of coffee. These resources require staff investments of time and energy so your tax-deductible contributions are vital to helping the next generation of policy experts and communicators start off on the right foot. Consider making a donation today!


Most Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: H.R. 5035, NIST Reauthorization Act of 2014

Cost Per Year: $260 million ($520 million over two years)

Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-IN)Article 1, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to “fix the standard of weight and measure.” However, it wasn’t until the late 1820s that Congress took any such action, which proved to be an especially difficult problem for the U.S. Mint: with no way of ensuring that each coin it created for circulation contained the same amount of gold, some coins may have in fact been worth more or less than their face value implied. Although the government was able to settle on a standard of measurement by 1828 (using a weight imported from London equal to one imperial troy pound), it needed more precise means of measurement to ensure accurate conformity to the standards.

In 1830, Congress established the Office of Standard Weights and Measures, which later became the National Bureau of Standards in 1901, in order to develop a uniform system of measurement for use in all official purposes. By the time the U.S. entered World War II, the agency was serving as a federal laboratory for support of engineering, manufacturing, and educational standards. In 1988, Congress renamed the agency again, this time as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and tasked it with providing advisory services and research that supports “U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness ... in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.”

Employing more than 2,000 scientists and full-time employees, NIST develops and maintains everything from the atomic clock keeping the nation’s official time, to scales used in advanced nanotechnology. Additionally, the agency works to strengthen the U.S. manufacturing industry largely through its Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). MEP is a program carried out between federal and state governments that provides research, development, and marketing services to private manufacturing businesses. According to the NIST, the MEP program helped over 30,000 manufacturers last year and it received about $118 million in funding. The President’s latest budget has requested $141 million for the program in 2015. MEP is often cited as an example of corporate welfare by critics such as the CATO Institute and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) frequently lists the program in its annual Budget Options reports that compile policy reforms to reduce spending.

Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-IN) introduced the NIST Reauthorization Act in July, which would appropriate new funding for the NIST’s core research and development programs as well as the MEP program. In a press release, Rep. Bucshon said “NIST has had a substantial impact on our nation’s scientific and technological developments, industry, and economy for over 100 years. ... This bill implements changes and updates to ensure responsible use of taxpayer funds during tight fiscal times while still maintaining a competitive edge in the United States.”

H.R. 5053 authorizes $850 million for NIST in FY 2014 and $856 million for FY 2015, an average of $260 million per year above what the agency spent in 2013 ($593 million). capitol_dome_tinytaxtabhaticonalpha.png

The Bottom Line: The NIST Reauthorization Act would appropriate new funding for federal metrology research and manufacturing partnerships. It would increase federal spending by $520 million.


Least Expensive Bill of the Week

The Bill: S. 2492, the Charity Care Expansion Act of 2014

Savings Per Year: $594 million ($3.0 billion over five years)

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)One of the primary reasons the President and Congress introduced the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2009 was to expand access to health insurance to the millions of Americans who did not have coverage whether it was because they could not afford insurance or did not qualify for insurance due to pre-existing conditions. And for those who had opted to take their chances and not purchase insurance, there is now a coverage mandate that requires individuals to prove to the IRS that they have insurance or pay a “shared responsibility payment” – a new breed of taxation. The early data seem to show that the share of uninsured is dropping, even as premiums for plans offered through ACA exchanges are expected to rise by about 7.5 percent next year and a majority of businesses reported an increase in health care costs due to the legislation’s requirements.

Hospitals and physicians sometimes provide charity care at a free or reduced rate to low income patients who cannot afford the cost of insurance or out of pocket costs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the cost of such “uncompensated care” in 2013 was $84.9 billion. Health care providers were reimbursed for $32.8 billion of that amount through federal programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and the Veterans Health Administration. Medical professionals assume all of the remaining costs themselves.

The availability of coverage under the ACA has caused many hospitals and physicians to reconsider the level of care they will provide for free. Because coverage has not expanded at the same rate reimbursement funding has been cut, there is a major financial disincentive to provide charity care. As Kaiser Health News explained: “... hospitals have a strong financial interest in having more patients covered by insurance. That’s particularly true for hospitals that see many uninsured patients because the health law also reduces their government payments for uncompensated care. The assumption was that most uninsured people would gain coverage and no longer run up large hospital bills that could not be paid.”

In order to address the problem, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced the Charity Care Expansion Act. S. 2492 would offer physicians a tax deduction equal to the amount that they would have otherwise been paid, capped at ten percent of the physician’s gross income. In order to qualify, they would have to demonstrate a pre-existing relationship with a health care clinic that focuses on care for low income patients, so that patients are more likely to be entered into a healthcare system for ongoing treatment, and hospitals can’t take advantage of the deduction to write off existing debts. In a statement, the Senator said the bill “would create a much needed incentive for doctors to deliver uncompensated care, thereby improving and expanding access to care for the uninsured.”

In order to offset the reduction in tax revenues, Senator Scott’s legislation would also repeal the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The grant is meant to supplement state and local efforts to combat chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis that are prevalent in a particular community. Funding also goes towards responding to less predictable outbreaks of food- and waterborne infections. According to CBO, repealing the grant would reduce federal spending by $2.97 billion over five years, an average of $594 million per year. capitol_dome_tinytaxtabhaticonalpha.png

The Bottom Line: The Charity Care Expansion Act would offer tax deductions to qualifying physicians in order to encourage treatment of uninsured patients. It would also repeal the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, reducing spending by $2.97 billion.


The Wildcard

The Bill: H.R. 1133/S. 2640, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act

Cost Per Year: $1 million ($4 million over five years)

Congressman John Duncan (R-TN)The Presidential Libraries Act was enacted in 1955 to administer the system of Presidential libraries, which preserve memorabilia, papers, and other historical documents belonging to former Commanders-in-Chief that may be of value to researchers and historians. Although that process was originally intended to be the sole responsibility of the federal government, the Act was amended in 1986 to authorize private sources to finance the construction and programming of the libraries. Today, the funding for libraries comes from a combination of public appropriations -- through the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) -- and private endowments. The federal government currently operates libraries for 13 former Presidents; according to the Office of Management and Budget, NARA spent $105 million in FY 2013 on records management activities, including those of the Presidential libraries.

As explained in a 2010 Congressional Research Service report, most of a Presidential library’s operation, maintenance, and construction costs are funded through private foundations. These foundations are usually designated as 501(c)(3) organizations, which means that they are tax-exempt public charities unable to contribute to personal interests of their membership or certain political activities. While they are required to report their income and expenses to the IRS and the public, there are very few instances in which donors’ identities have to be disclosed, and there are no limits to the amounts donors can give. Private money given to libraries is eligible for the charitable deduction for individuals’ income taxes.

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)This has raised the question of whether more transparent reporting standards should be adopted for Presidential library foundations. Critics of the current system have cited multiple allegations of Presidents still in office soliciting library donations in exchange for perks and favors, including White House access and Presidential pardons.

In response, Congressman John Duncan (R-TN) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act. The bill would require library foundations to identify all donors who contribute more than $200 at any point while a President is still in office. The information would be submitted in a quarterly report to NARA, and must be made available to the public via a searchable online database. Rep. Duncan has introduced the measure in every Congress since the 106th, saying in a statement that “[w]hen there is no requirement for disclosing the donor or the amounts being donated, there is great potential for abuse. ... However, this is not a partisan issue. I have introduced and supported this legislation under both Democratic and Republican presidents.”

According to CBO, implementing the bill’s requirements would increase federal spending by about $4 million over five years, including $1 million to establish the database and slightly less than that to maintain it in each year thereafter. capitol_dome_tinycapitol_dome_tinytaxtabhaticonalpha.png

The Bottom Line: The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act would require private foundations to disclose donors who contribute over $200 to a President’s library while he is still in office. It would cost about $1 million per year.