June 23, 2014
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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.
June 20, 2014
Recently, TPA wrote about the ridiculous tax increase offered by Gov. Chris Christie on e-cigarettes (click here). This week we continue the series with Ohio, where Republican Governor John Kasich has proposed new taxes on E-Cigarettes. One of the motivating factors for this is that revenue from traditional cigarette taxes is declining. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance has written extensively about how estimated tax revenue from tobacco taxes never materialize (file that under: we told you so!). This type of phenomenon, that TPA calls “Fool’s Gold,” can be seen in several states, and internationally. The Ohio proposal is a part of the Governor’s Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) and Will Upton with Americans for Tax Reform detailed the specific pieces where Kasich is aiming for tobacco and e-cigarettes. The simple fact is that selectively targeting products and industries with tax increases eventually drives consumers out of the market, eventually harming businesses and taxpayers. If prior examples are any indication of what to expect, the revenue generated will not hold up and will not solve the problems that the state may have in filling their budgetary gaps and priorities in the future unless taxes are increased.» Read More
June 19, 2014
Right now in Washington, D.C. there is a great deal of activity in Congress as members rush towards the July 4th holiday break. The last few weeks we've seen a several appropriations bills make their way through committees and onto the House and Senate floors funding Transportation, Education, Housing, Energy, and Defense. Today, as Congress continues work on H.R. 4870, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015 it is important to know that there are a great deal of attempts made by representatives on both sides of the poltiical aisle to use these spending bills as a vehicle to save money for taxpayers. As much waste and unncesary spending as we see during the rush to get appropriations bills through both chambers, there are also examples of smart and reasonable amendments that will cut spending and provide taxpayers with a rare win. Today, in a letter sent to the House by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), TPA joined with Antiwar.com, Coalition to Reduce Spending, Council for a Livable World, DownsizeDC.org, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Just Foreign Policy, National Priorities Project, National Taxpayers Union, Peace Action, Peace Action West, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Taxpayers for Common Sense, United for Peace and Justice, U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), Win Without War, and Women’s Action for New Directions to support several taxpayer-friendly amendments that have been put forth in the debate of the 2015 defense spending bill. TPA is hopeful that more amendments saving taxpayer dollars will be put forth as the appropriations process continues in the coming weeks.
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Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
June 16, 2014
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Ask anyone who has had to pay for one recently and they’ll tell you the same thing – the cost of obtaining a college education is soaring. For decades, prices associated with going to college have been rising faster than inflation. So, last week, the Senate put aside its work to ensure that our nation’s veterans have access to the medical care they need to consider legislation to make college more affordable for students who have already graduated. Forty million Americans hold approximately $1.2 trillion in student loan debt currently. According to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), undergraduate students account for 85% of all student loan debt, owing an average of $21,600. The typical student who graduated with a four-year degree owes about $27,000. Despite all of this debt, a college education is still one of the best investments an American can make. According to the Census Bureau, a college degree is worth an extra $1 million in salary over an individual’s working lifetime.
June 9, 2014
The government continues to spend and collect taxpayer money at record levels, and the national debt continues to rise. Reform can be key when it comes to finding ways to get spending under control. Spending cuts are important, but in many cases there are programs, agencies, and systems that need structural reform in order to truly realize savings in the long-run. The United States Criminal Justice system is one of the prime examples where spending cuts are just not enough to solve the problem. The Department of Justice’s allotment for the prison system in their budget consumes about 30% today, and taxpayer money continues to be spent while reform continues to linger in Congress. Today, in the Senate, the Smarter Sentencing Act (SSA) can be put up for consideration. SSA is a modest approach to reform that would affect nonviolent drug offenses. The SSA would reduce the length of mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses by half and in the long run would reduce the cost and growth of prisons to reasonably manageable levels. SSA ensures that any drug offenses resulting in serious bodily injury or death are not impacted, while giving judges “limited, clearly-defined discretion to sentence low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with negligible criminal records below the mandatory minimum term.” Last week, TPA and several other groups including Coalition to Reduce Spending, National Association of Evangelicals, R Street Institute, Heritage Action for America, and Americans for Tax Reform signed a letter urging the Senate to move on the Smarter Sentencing Act.
Click 'read more' below to the see the full letter» Read More
June 6, 2014
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This article written by Stephen DeMaura, president of Americans for Job Security, originally appeared in Townhall.com on May 31, 2014
The ancient Roman historian Livy observed that “the unknown always inspires terror.” That was not a novel idea for the Romans – fear of the unknown is as old as humanity itself. Much more recently, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reminded us just how many kinds of “unknowns” there were to fear. “There are known knowns,” he famously explained in a 2002 press briefing. “There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” That statement is enough to keep a philosophy convention occupied for days. All deeper implications aside, however, one thing is certain: “unknown” is not an answer that Americans should expect to find when looking into the final destination of billions of dollars they are responsible for. Unfortunately, that’s precisely the answer that we get when it comes to $24.3 billion of the funds doled out since 2007 by the Export-Import Bank of the United States. It’s that sort of unknown that should “inspire terror” in every taxpayer.
June 4, 2014
A crowning achievement of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s legacy was the 47,000 mile Interstate Highway System. The system revolutionized America’s economic and social structure. As Eisenhower noted, the 1956 Highway Revenue Act united a country that existed as an “alliance of many separate parts” and “its impact on the economy…was beyond calculation.” Even though there have been some bumps in the road with congressional earmarking and other questionable policy decisions, for more than sixty years the Highway Trust Fund has financed the maintenance and repair of America’s highways. The trust fund is set to run out of money by August, not good news for the nation’s infrastructure. The current 18.4-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax and 24.4-cent-per-gallon diesel fuel tax will no longer sustain the Fund, which has a projected shortfall of $172 billion over the next ten years. If the Fund fails, more than 700,000 Americans will lose jobs, more than 112,000 projects will stop, and our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure will continue to crumble.» Read More
May 29, 2014
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The duplicative USDA Catfish Inspection program is just one of many examples
of waste CARFA would help to eliminate, saving taxpayers money
Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and the National Taxpayers Union sent a joint letter to Capitol Hill expressing our support for establishing the Commission on the Accountability and Review of Federal Agencies (CARFA). The legislation, H.R. 4566, introduced by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), would be an important step in the right direction to fight the growing waste and inefficiency within our federal agencies. CARFA would conduct a six-year comprehensive review of federal agencies and programs in a bi-partisan construct and would give recommendations for elimination or realignment of duplicative, wasteful, or outdated functions.
Click 'read more' below to see the full letter
May 22, 2014
Yesterday, Taxpayers Protection Alliance put out a list of amendments that were being considered for H.R. 4435, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. TPA provided members of Congress and all Americans with a guide on specific amendments and how members of Congress should vote. Just now, the House concluded their business regarding these offered amendments and will move forward with passage likely of the NDAA sometime this afternoon. Now that amendments have been debated and selected, TPA wanted to update readers on where there were victories for taxpayers, and where there were defeats. The debate on the NDAA will shift to the Senate and TPA will watch to see what the bill will look like after they complete their process, although unfortunately in that chamber of Congress, there is a lack of transparency in how they proceed on the NDAA, as TPA has noted recently. Regardless, it is time for Congress to take steps to ensure that the Department of Defense (DoD) is given the necessary tools to defend the nation while not using this legislation as yet another way to waste taxpayer dollars.
Click 'read more' below to see the updated list! » Read More
May 21, 2014
The House of Representatives is debating H.R. 4435, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is providing members of Congress and all Americans with a guide on specific amendments and how members of Congress should vote. The guide is simple: the amendment number; the sponsor(s) of the amendment; a description of the amendment (text was taken directly from the House of Representatives website); and the correct way to vote. As an added feature, TPA has flagged some of the amendments with “Vote No! (Earmark Alert)” as potential earmarks. TPA takes a clear stand on these proposed amendments and makes clear whether they are beneficial to taxpayers or not. It is time for Congress to take steps to ensure that the Department of Defense (DoD) is given the necessary tools to defend the nation and not use this legislation yet another means to waste taxpayer money. TPA will continue to monitor these amendments as the bill makes its way through the House, Senate, and eventually conference committee.» Read More
click 'read more' below to see the list of amendments
May 13, 2014
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Last week, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) highlighted how transparency should play a key a role in the markup of the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and how such efforts to make the markup process more open would help make legislation better for taxpayers. With those same concerns for transparency in mind, the Pentagon should take a serious look at reforming the ways in which they manage their own finances and seriously cut down on the taxpayer money that is predominantly wasted at the Department of Defense. Auditing the Pentagon is a reasonable request, and considering the agency hasn’t had an official audit in more than a decade, it would stand to reason that the time has come for those handing the accounting at DoD need to seriously consider ways in which the trillions of dollars, yes trillions, can be carefully examined so that all citizens can see where the money is going. The Pentagon, like any federal agency, only exists with the taxpayer money appropriated to it. The problem however, is that there has been no accurate accounting of how the money has been spent and that is why there is need for improvements and why those improvements must really take hold. Any entity that is not held to rudimentary standards when it comes to financial record keeping is essentially risking all the money it has been given. A lack of accountability leads to money being wasted, and since the derelict bookkeeping is an epidemic at DoD, quite a bit of taxpayer money is at risk.
May 5, 2014
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Washington, D.C. – The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) will be joining other leading conservative and free market organizations today at a joint briefing in B-339 Rayburn House Office Building at 12:30 pm to urge Congress to reject reauthorization of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank. The Ex-Im Bank has been a waste of taxpayer money for far too long, and it runs directly counter to the principles of free-markets that our nation’s economy is built upon. The Ex-Im Bank engages in some of the worst forms of corporate welfare and cronyism on a regular basis and TPA is absolutely opposed to this bank continuing the kinds of destructive policies that kill jobs and harm taxpayers. A joint coalition letter signed by TPA stated that, “By paying foreign companies to buy American exports, the Export-Import Bank tilts the playing field away from mid-sized and small businesses in favor of large, politically connected corporations. The Airlines for America, for example, estimates that the bank’s recent loans to foreign airlines have killed as many as 7,500 jobs for domestic airlines in the United States. Eliminating the Export-Import Bank would level the playing field and allow U.S. companies to compete for business on their merits rather than the strength of their political ties to the bank.” TPA President David Williams added, “Year after year Ex-Im Bank doles out billions of dollars in below market financing to foreign companies at the expense of American jobs... By denying reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank this year, Congress has a prime opportunity to help end some of the worst practices of cronyism we’ve seen in government.”
Click 'read more' below to see the full press release & letter
April 25, 2014
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United States Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.)
We all remember pork-barrel earmarks. Those pesky little projects that members of Congress snuck into spending bills to try and curry favor back home. Earmarks in the past have included $50 million for an indoor rain forest in Iowa; $500,00 for a teapot museum in Sparta, North Carolina; and $100,000 to the Tiger Woods Foundation. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) categorized earamrks as “the gateway drug to spending addiction in Congress because they encourage members of Congress to vote for bloated bills they would otherwise oppose. Earmarks also waste money outright, contrary to the views of many members.” Responding to voter pressure, Congress instituted transparency rules for earmarks starting in 2008 and then in 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two-year moratorium on earmarks. The moratorium was extended and most earmarks disappeared, except for the Defense spending bill. In fact, TPA uncovered 186 earmarks worth $7 billion (click here to see the full list) in the Defense Appropriations Bill that was part of H.R. 3547, the 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act, aka the Omnibus appropriations bill. Now, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is calling for the full reinstatement of the earmark process in the halls of Congress. Senator Durbin wants to officially bring back the practice of inserting pet projects into bills in order to make it easier for members to vote in favor of legislation. Speaking on this last week, the Illinois Senator made the case for a return to an earmark-laden legislative process by using the example of the massive transportation bill
April 21, 2014
A couple weeks ago the House of Representatives passed the Baseline Reform Act. It then proceeded to consider the budget resolution for fiscal year 2015 and illustrate precisely why enactment of the Baseline Reform Act is necessary. Annual budget forecasts are guided by a series of assumptions set forth in the law. One of the assumptions is that spending on discretionary programs automatically will increase by the amount of inflation from year to year. This means that from the very beginning of the process, the federal budget assumes increased spending. It also changes the language that Members of Congress use when discussing the budget. Members take credit for spending “reductions” when budgets actually increase and opponents of lower spending claim programs are being cut or gutted even though their funding is actually increasing. The Baseline Reform Act ends the assumption of increased spending and forces Congress to determine spending amounts on each program based on merit and need, not inflation.When one listens to a budget debate, there is rarely clarity. The exact same document either “cuts non-defense discretionary spending by $791 billion . . . slashes education funding” and “decimates the safety net programs” or, it actually “grows the federal budget by 3.5% annually.” And, while it’s growing the budget by 3.5% annually, it is also cutting total funding by $5.1 trillion. Confused yet?» Read More
April 18, 2014
Every Tax Day is a painful reminder of how all levels of government waste taxpayer dollars. News coverage of an April 15th press event with new General Motors CEO Mary Barra (read here and watch here) is a harsh reminder of the $10 billion taxpayers lost in the federal government bailout of “Government Motors.” And now, the ongoing troubles with their safety recall of 1.6 millions vehicles and the lack of answers made available at a series of Congressional hearings only add insult to injury. There was much debate when the government bailed out GM back in 2009 and taxpayers were promised a return on the nearly $50 billion investment. However, in late December 2013 the U.S. Treasury Department announced it had sold back its remaining shares of GM stock - at a loss of $10 billion. As reported by USA Today, the now-departed CEO Dan Akerson said at the time that he did not think the automaker should repay the $10 billion. So $10 billion later, taxpayers also started the New Year to news that GM was recalling 1.6 million vehicles due to a safety issue that is connected to 13 deaths and another 31 injuries. We then learn that the company knew about the safety default and sat on it for nearly a decade.» Read More
April 16, 2014
Tax Day and the pain of filing and paying taxes has come and gone. When Congress returns back to work next week (yes, they’re on another break) they will have quite a bit of work to do to do to ensure that next year’s Tax Day isn’t as painful. Congress and the President have found numerous ways to spend tax dollars, it is now time to find ways to cut spending. The good news is that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released its fourth consecutive report on duplicative spending and cost saving recommendations that could save taxpayers billions of dollars. The report details 64 new actions to address concerns in 26 areas. The 2014 report notes that over the past four years, 123 actions have been addressed, 172 actions have been partially addressed, and 75 actions have not been addressed.Taxpayers should be both disappointed and also encouraged by the findings in the report.
Click 'read more' below to see highlights of potential savings from the GAO report.» Read More
April 14, 2014
Find out what 'angry wives' have to do with taxpayer waste!
Taxpayers will reach the dreaded April 15th deadline to file their taxes tomorrow, so the Taxpayers Protection Alliance presents a new web video titled Top 10 Taxpayer Flops, Follies and Fiascos of 2014. This year’s list includes a National Institutes of Health study that says wives should calm down; a taxpayer-subsidized reality show for the Army; and the United States Postal Service paying a “futurist” named Faith Popcorn to give stamp advice.
Click Here to the see the video » Read More
April 9, 2014
Find out what 'angry wives' have to do with taxpayer waste!
As taxpayers approach the dreaded April 15th deadline to file their taxes, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance presents a new web video titled Top 10 Taxpayer Flops, Follies and Fiascos of 2014. This year’s list includes a National Institutes of Health study that says wives should calm down; a taxpayer-subsidized reality show for the Army; and the United States Postal Service paying a “futurist” named Faith Popcorn to give stamp advice.
Click Here to the see the video » Read More
Taxpayers Protection Alliance & RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity Release Spotlight on Spending ReportMichi Iljazi on
April 2, 2014
Rhode Island State House (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Today, Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams is in Rhode Island to highlight some of the costly ways that the state government has wasted taxpayer money over the last year. In a joint project with the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, TPA has produced the Spotlight on Spending Report showing some of the more dubious examples of government spending in Rhode Island. There will be a press conference at 3pm at the state house, click 'read more' below to see the press release sent out earlier regarding this event. » Read More
March 26, 2014
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There are times when federal agencies do the job they were supposed to do, unfortunately there are also many times when federal agencies do harm and cause pain to taxpayers. However, one thing is for certain: regardless of the manner in which federal agencies enact policy, there must always be oversight to ensure that taxpayer money isn’t going to waste on things that have nothing to do with the actual responsibilities of the agency and its employees. Recent examples at the General Services Administration (GSA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) using taxpayer money for lavish conferences and pointless promotional projects were alarming, and rightfully maligned by citizens and politicians alike. Now newly uncovered evidence shows more taxpayer waste from yet another federal agency, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A recent report from the EPA’s Inspector General details reckless spending by employees who spent money on frivolous items such as gift cards, gym memberships, and hotel space for events. Here are some highlights from the IG report.