October 21, 2014
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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.
October 13, 2014
The federal government has a nasty habit of inserting itself into the marketplace when it is neither wanted nor needed. Many times their involvement harms private sector stakeholders who are at a limited capacity when it comes to the advanatages the federal government has in order to cripple private competition, regardless of the usual lower quality service the government provides at taxpayer expense. Recently the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced plans to expand their grocery delivery service beyond current markets and sought public opinion on the proposal. Last week, Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) submitted comments to the Postal Regulatory Commission on this matter and pointed out the unfair advantages, sorry financial state of the agency, and lack of clarity for how this will impact the marketplace and the US Postal Service.
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October 8, 2014
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Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett
States are constantly looking for ways to get more money from taxpayers, and no matter how many times a tax increase fails to generate the desired result, we see this tactic repeated over and over again. Unfortunately, now comes yet another disappointment from a state legislature looking to fix problems with budget shortfalls. Lawmakers in Pennsylvania recently moved in a bipartisan manner to increase cigarette taxes by $2 with the approval of the state’s Republican Governor. The move comes under the heading of aiding a troubled education sector in Philadelphia. While there’s nothing wrong with improving education standards for children in areas where the improvement is needed, the way in which those reforms are achieved can become problematic. The tax increase the Governor signed is designed to fund the school district to help Philadelphia public schools but the negative impact that tax increases can have may end up putting the state in real jeopardy of falling short in terms of fulfilling their commitment to the schools and students in that district. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been a vocal critic of this type of tax increase and there is reason to show why it can actually do more harm than good on multiple levels.
September 17, 2014
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 » Read More
August 29, 2014
This week the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), in partnership with Our Generation, released a report detailing the costs of congressional compensation and the sobering figures of how much the taxpayer is paying when it comes to pay, and benefits for elected officials. The report, “Are Members of Congress Overpaid? An Analysis of Congressional Compensation” (which you can read here) shows that in addition to a salary of $174,000 per year, which by itself puts DC representatives among the highest-paid 5 percent of US workers, members of Congress also receive more generous benefits than typical employees, with total congressional compensation including benefits adding up to $286,000 per year. The report also reveals that members of Congress make 3.2 times more than the average full-time American worker. With a $17.7 trillion debt and budget deadlines nearing, there is something to be said about the quality of work being done by Congress in comparison to their compensation. The report details specific attempts made in the past year to scale-back pay for Congress, even as some members say they are “underpaid.” TPA encourages everyone to take a look at the report so that more attention can be brought to this very underreported issue. » Read More
August 26, 2014
This morning the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), in partnership with Our Gerneration, released a report detailing the costs of congressional compensation and the sobering figures of how much the taxpayer is paying when it comes to pay, and benefits for elected officials. The report, “Are Members of Congress Overpaid? An Analysis of Congressional Compensation” (which you can read here) shows that in addition to a salary of $174,000 per year, which by itself puts DC representatives among the highest-paid 5 percent of US workers, members of Congress also receive more generous benefits than typical employees, with total congressional compensation including benefits adding up to $286,000 per year. The report also reveals that members of Congress make 3.2 times more than the average full-time American worker. With a $17.7 trillion debt and budget deadlines nearing, there is something to be said about the quality of work being done by Congress in comparison to their compensation. The report details specific attempts made in the past year to scale-back pay for Congress, even as some members say they are “underpaid.” TPA encourages everyone to take a look at the report so that more attention can be brought to this very underreported issue.
Click 'read more' below to read the full report » Read More
August 19, 2014
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Former Secretary of State Clinton still traveling on taxpayer dime (Wikimedia)
As Labor Day approaches, folks across the United States prepare to to take that one last vacation before the end of summer. Whether it’s planning a road trip in the car or flying to their vacation spot, Americans carefully plan the financial logistics of where to go and what they can afford. A new report by the non-partisan Sunlight Foundation shows that current and former federal agency officials and senators don’t have those financial worries as they use taxpayer money to fund their personal travel. According to data complied by the Sunlight Foundation, nearly 25 percent of the 100 member U.S. Senate spent $1 million in taxpayer money on chartered flights in 2013.
August 13, 2014
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Sens. Coburn and Obama discussing transparency website legislation (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
If messing up websites was a profession, the federal government would be considered an expert. Last year Healthcare.gov failed to launch amidst great fanfare and promise. And, just last month, the FCC showed exactly why they shouldn’t be taking control of the internet after problems they had on their own web page caused the website to crash. Now, a government website dedicated to providing greater transparency for spending of taxpayer money is proving once again how inefficient the public sector can be when it comes to basic management. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the USASpending.gov site is riddled with problems with both missing data and inaccuracies of data collected. And, it appears that the Obama Administration may be the key reason for the problems. Stephen Dinan of The Washington Times detailed the news that should alarm taxpayers and anyone concerned with accountability in government.
August 11, 2014
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This article appeared in Inside Sources on July 31, 2014
There was a time when appropriations season in Washington was a time for wasteful handouts to special interests of all stripes. Grinning politicians would toss cash like freshly plucked flower pedals, while skipping in the summer sun. Capitol Hill was alive with the sound of earmarking. Fortunately, there is a moratorium on earmarks (even though the House and Senate slipped in billions of dollars worth of earmarks into the Defense Appropriations Bill), but there is still plenty of wasteful spending that needs to be eliminated. One program in particular, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) catfish inspection program not only epitomizes wasteful spending, it could dismantle an important trade deal thereby hurting economic growth.
August 6, 2014
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The public has been assured that when it comes to US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan that the “wars are winding down.” Unfortunately it seems that not only is that not the case, there also appears to be a real problem regarding the way in which taxpayer money is being spent. The latest example comes out of Afghanistan (America’s longest war) as the findings from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released a report about how much taxpayer money has been wasted rebuilding that country. According to John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, "Too often we've pushed taxpayer money out the door without considering if the Afghans need it and can sustain it."
August 4, 2014
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This article originally appeared on Townhall.com on July 24, 2014
You can’t help but hand it to them – rooftop solar companies have quite cleverly found their way onto the government’s gravy train. For years Washington has subsidized rooftop solar installations for customersin the form of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which allows homeowners who install rooftop solar panels to receive a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the cost. The subsidy has been one of the many ongoing ways in which the feds insert themselves into the energy marketplace. And while it has hampered efforts to achieve real energy independence in the U.S., and has therefore caused real harm to our economy, it nevertheless has met a legitimate need for homeowners desperate for some relief from high energy costs. But rooftop solar companies – most of which, like SolarCity, Corp., are political connected and favored – have created a scheme to claim the tax credit for themselves. These companies discovered that if they lease the rooftop solar systems to homeowners, the companies themselves can claim the federal tax credit as well as all state and local incentives.
BREAKING NEWS: Watchdog Group Uncovers Billions in Earmarks in both the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Bills (UPDATED)David Williams and Michi Iljazi on
July 31, 2014
BREAKING NEWS: Watchdog Group Uncovers Billions in Earmarks in both the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Bills
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) uncovered hundreds of earmarks in both the House and Senate versions of the 2015 Defense Appropriations bill. In the House (click here), there were 137 earmarks worth $8,176,255,000. In the Senate (click here), there were 190 earmarks worth $11,718,149,000. All of the earmarks listed were spending items not requested by the Pentagon. This is yet another disappointing example of Washington politicians spending taxpayer money in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. The waste could be seen in such familiar programs like $224,000,000 added by the House for the F-35; $120 million added by both the House and he Senate for the Abrams Tank; and $80 million for the Littoral Combat Ship. For a list of the earmarks that appeared in both chambers, click here!
Click 'read more' below to see the full list of earmarks» Read More
July 29, 2014
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Earlier this month, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported the city-owned utility system, the Electric Power Board (EPB), wants to expand its gigabit Internet offering beyond the city limits. According to the newspaper, EPB may even move across state lines, into Georgia. Under current Tennessee law, EPB “is only allowed to offer fiber optic service to customers who also get their electricity from EPB.” In other words, the scope is responsibly limited. The EPB can appeal to the Federal Communications Commission to go around that law, and did just that last week. A decision by the FCC to circumvent the law would be bad for taxpayers, could harm the local economy and would also go against state lawmakers’ clear preference that EPB concentrate on providing service to the citizens of Chattanooga. EPB’s plans are the height of hubris. By all accounts, the utility has attracted only a relative handful of subscribers to its gigabit service – perhaps because when it set the original sky-high price of $349.00/month for the service, President Harold DePriest said EPB chose the rate simply “because we can.” So, instead of market studies, business modeling or product testing, EPB just did things because they could. That could very well be the same mentality at play now. Is there any indication that consumers in surrounding cities want EPB’s service or does EPB just want to expand because they think they should be allowed to?
July 28, 2014
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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
July 24, 2014
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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.
July 10, 2014
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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."
TPA Coalition Letter Urges Congress to Act on Comprehensive Tax Reform Without Shortcuts or GimmicksMichi Iljazi on
July 8, 2014
The clock is running out on the legislative calendar for 2014, with the August recess fast approaching and the midterm elections around the corner there isn’t much time left for Congress to act on important issues facing the country. One such issue is tax reform, but not all the talk has been welcome news for taxpayers. Though leaders on Capitol Hill have had discussions as well as some substantive proposals, including one from House Ways & Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), there’s still not much taxpayers are seeing out of Congress on comprehensive tax reform. Keeping that in mind, TPA led a coalition in sending this letter to leaders on both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee urging them that any tax reform Congress decides to do should be done in a way that benefits taxpayers, as opposed to any minimal changes to the tax code (corporate or otherwise) that would be used to pay for special projects. Tax reform shouldn’t be a vessel for politicians to find more ways to spend taxpayer dollars, it should be done to broaden the base and save individual taxpayers money across the board. TPA was joined by American Commitment, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, Center for Individual Freedom, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Frontiers of Freedom, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Independent Women's Forum, Independent Women's Voice, Less Government, Log Cabin Republicans, National Taxpayers Union, R Street Institute, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, and Taxpayers for Common Sense in telling Congress to stay away from attempts at tax reform that would simply be done to give Washington more money to spend and we urge all taxpayers to tell their representatives in both chambers of Congress the same.
To see the full letter, click 'read more' below » Read More
July 7, 2014
(Joe Jansen has a decade and a half of experience working as a staff member on Capitol Hill. He has worked in almost every legislative capacity in both the House and Senate. Joe will be a frequent contributor to TPA’s blog.) Late last year, Congress agreed on a two-year budget deal that set overall spending levels for Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015. Theoretically, this deal should have made it much easier for Congress to pass the twelve annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government before the end of the fiscal year. But, in a sign that the budget process is broken beyond repair, it does not even look like Congress will get close to completing its work on time. To add insult to injury, passing spending bills is a constitutionally mandated job of Congress. Each year, Congress has until September 30 – the end of the fiscal year – to pass twelve appropriations bills and complete the process of funding the federal government. So far this year the House has passed five of the twelve appropriations bills. It is scheduled to be in session just 28 more days this year. The House could possibly pass seven more bills in that 28 days, but there would be no time to go to conference with the Senate and complete work on all the bills prior to the end of the fiscal year.» Read More
July 1, 2014
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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
June 27, 2014
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U.S. Navy Tactical Tomahawk launch (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
The Pentagon is a classic example of a federal agency that spends money on unnecessary programs. Congress is an integral part of the problem as they appropriate money for programs that are duplicative and unnecessary. This problem was highlighted when the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) exposed that the Omnibus spending bill which was passed earlier this year was filled with more than $7 billion in unrequested earmarks. The debate over earmarks isn’t the only problem that taxpayers must continue to fight, there is also the question of efficiency and how best to spend money when it is actually necessary. Though TPA focuses a great deal on the wasteful spending on projects and programs that are not needed, there is a need to focus on how to make sure that spending is done responsibility when dealing with competing technologies and programs that aim to achieve the same outcomes or serve similar purposes and interests. The F-35 is a glaring example of the Pentagon spending money on a weapons system that is unneeded and overly expensive. Besides the much-publicized problems with the F-35, two weapons systems that put a spotlight on this problem are the Tomahawk Missile program and the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) program.