The Department of Defense has long been seen as one of the primary areas where reform is needed when it comes to how taxpayer money is spent. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has highlighted not only the wasteful spending practices that exist in the Pentagon, but there is also the fact that transparency and accountability at the agency is lacking and has been for quite some time. Unfortunately, another example of waste and mismanagement has been uncovered showing once again that taxpayers aren’t being best served by DOD. Andrea Shalal of Reuters reported in early October on a fleet of planes for Afghanistan, which came courtesy of American taxpayers, is being sold for scrap.
Kathleen Sebelius, Dr. Francis Collins, President Obama (courtesy nih.gov)
The recent developments on the Ebola crisis in West Africa have impacted the US in some troubling ways as there have been multiple potential cases reported over the last few weeks. In Dallas, Texas there have been multiple confirmed cases of Ebola and around the country there have been many who have been tested for the virus. The politics of Ebola have begun to take hold and you see many looking to take aim for who is to blame for the response by both the federal and state officials. Unfortunately, there is great deal of hypocrisy and theatrics in much of the blame game. Nobody should be taken more to task than National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, who leveled an unfounded attack on why the agency has been less than prepared on the response to the recent cases of Ebola here in the US. Last week, Dr. Collins told the Huffington Post that stagnant federal spending has led to a delay in having a vaccine ready to combat Ebola.
Tonight, the House of Representatives passed yet another short-term spending bill
to keep the government open, by a vote of 319 to 108. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released a statement saying, in part: Tonight, the United States House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through December 11, 2014 and the legislation is on its way to the Senate for likely passage and then to the President for his signature. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is extremely disappointed in this latest half-measure to fund the government that not only ensures continued protection for the crony Export-Import Bank, but also leaves in doubt whether or not taxpayers will be able to be protected from Internet Access taxes in the long-term. TPA has several issues with this continuing resolution but there are a few that stand out. First, the extension of the Export-Import Bank that is included in the CR is a troubling development on a fight that has been taking up a great deal of debate on Capitol Hill over recent months. The extension goes well into 2015, leaving the possibility that a long-term extension for Ex-Im may be in the works. TPA opposes extension of the bank because it is a major enabler of the worst kind of corporate welfare that leaves taxpayers at risk, costs American jobs, and undercuts the very idea of free-market principles in a global economy. Second, the bill includes only a mere five-week extension to the moratorium on Internet Access taxes. The moratorium was originally set to expire on November 1, 2014; now it is slated to expire in early December. This sets up yet another debate on the issue and TPA is very concerned there will be an attempt to couple a permanent extension with passage of an Internet Sales tax. The two issues are separate and should not be handled in a lame duck session of Congress, when politicians are unlikely to be held accountable.To read the full statement, click 'read more' below
There is no doubt that there must be a priority to make sure that our nation is protected and our interests at home and abroad are secured, but that’s not an excuse to continue wasteful and unnecessary Defense spending. One member of Congress, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), believes that sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress and the President agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011, may have to be halted due to new potential threats
Efficiency is a key goal for any for any federal agency, or at the very least it should be. When there is a deficiency in efficiency, serious questions need to be asked, and tough choices need to be made. The United States Postal Service (USPS) is no exception, and it’s long overdue for a serious review and possible overhaul as the USPS keeps losing money. The USPS recently posted their quarterly losses, and it wasn’t pretty, as the Wall Street Journal reported last month. One of the biggest hurdles for USPS in getting the budget out of the red is the cost of health care. Congress has required USPS to pre fund their health care for 75 years in only 10 years. This means billions of dollars are needed each year to fund retiree benefits.
Now is the time of year when a flurry of appropriations bills hit the floor in the House and Senate and marathon voting takes place so that politicians can make quick work of spending taxpayer money before heading out of town for their six-week vacation. TPA has been watching the appropriations process over the last few months and are mindful of the itch that Congress gets to spend more money than they limit themselves in writing. Taking that into account, TPA signed onto a letter sent by National Taxpayers Union, joining 60 Plus Association, American Commitment, Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Coalition to Reduce Spending, Competitive Enterprise Institute, The Conservative Caucus, Inc., Cost of Government Center, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, DownsizeDC.org, Freedom Action, FreedomWorks, R Street Institute, Republican Liberty Caucus, Restore America’s Mission, Rio Grande Foundation, and Taxpayers for Common Sense calling on both the House and Senate to abide by budgetary limits they set in both Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) and subsequently modified by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 aka the “Ryan-Murray" deal. It is bad enough that they broke the limits set forth by the BCA once, but to do so again would be yet another insult to taxpayers at a time when they are struggling to limit their own personal spending habits.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
This article originally appeared in Human Events on July 23, 2014
It’s often cliché to say that history repeats itself. But when it happens over and over again, cliché becomes reality. History is currently repeating itself when it comes to transportation funding and earmarks. The Transportation Trust Fund is set to run out in August and some members of Congress are anxious to exploit that issue to allow the return of unfettered pork spending. Earlier this year Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) suggested bringing back earmarks. Now former Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kansas), who is vying for his old congressional seat, has joined Sen. Durbin in publicly supporting the return of earmarks, as well. This comes as no surprise considering that Sen. Durbin and former Rep. Tiahrt were major appropriators during the heyday of runway spending. Unfortunately, the transportation bill just may be the vehicle that opens the door to allow the return of earmarks.
Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” That saying is as relevant to Washington today as it was during Churchill’s time. Back in 2009, with the country still in turmoil from the financial crisis, then White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel echoed the notion that when the country is in crisis politicians should use that crisis to do things they may not normally be able to do. This type of cynical and opportunistic approach to politics is probably just one of the many reasons why so many people have so little faith in our political institutions. The problems on the border are shaping up to be another opportunity for the President and Congress to turn a humanitarian crisis on the border into a fiscal crisis. President Obama submitted a $3.7 billion supplemental spending bill for measures that would (according to the Administration) constitute an aggressive approach to this problem. The White House released a statement calling on Congress to approve the spending with the President saying, "I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request."
The economy is struggling to regain footing after a recent report that gross domestic product fell at a 1% annual rate, vs. the 0.1% increase first estimated earlier in the year. This pain is being felt by the millions of Americans who continue to look for a job and those that have a job try to make ends meet with fewer dollars. Government officials seem oblivious to the dire economic straits as the President proposes new regulations and Congress fails to cut spending. But, probably the most out-of-touch government entity is Amtrak, which continues to lose more money and ask for more from taxpayers. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance uncovered astonishing overtime numbers that show that thousands of employees receive more than $35,000 in overtime compensation. The House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations (THUD) Bill for fiscal year (FY) 2015 details the alarming overtime figures. In 2013, Amtrak paid out more than $185 million in overtime expenses. Of that amount, $49 million was paid to 1,022 employees who accrued more than $35,000 in overtime. Doing some simple math, that means each employee averaged $47,000 in overtime. With an average salary of more than $80,000, these overtime expenses push those salaries to more than $120,000. This revelation comes at a time when Amtrak is projecting losses and looking for $1.19 billion in operating costs and capital expenses. The deficits Amtrak has been running are nothing to take lightly, the specific numbers should call into question why exactly taxpayers are continuing to subsidize something that loses hundreds of millions of dollars each year
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When somebody has a limited amount of time to look at a large, complicated issue, many of the details are bound to escape notice. The number of details missed increases when multiple distractions take away from the limited viewing time. The federal budget is no different. Each year, Congress is required to complete what has become the cumbersome (and expensive) process of funding the federal government. Between the first Monday in February (when the President presents his spending plan to Congress) and the end of the fiscal year on September 30th, Congress must formulate, enact, and execute the federal budget. For many different reasons this process has become an annual exercise in futility. It leads to a mad scramble to keep the government operating through continuing resolutions and ends in the passage of an omnibus spending bill. The result is an almost eight month long spectacle that puts the focus on the big picture, allowing many of the important details to escape notice. For decades, Congress has considered ditching annual budgets for a biennial budget process. While the details of the plans differ, the basic premise is that Congress would use the first year of each Congress to formulate, enact, and execute a budget for the next two years.