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Category: Earmarks



  • Congress Watch: Baseline Budgeting and Phony Spending Cuts

    Joe Jansen on April 7, 2014

    If your take home pay were the same today as it was one year ago, would you complain to your boss about your cut in pay?  If you were a federal program you could.  Federal law requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to annually prepare forecasts of federal revenues and spending over a ten year budget window.  These forecasts are guided by a series of assumptions set forth in the law.  One of the assumptions is that spending on discretionary programs – those programs that Congress chooses to fund – automatically will increase by the amount of inflation from year to year.  So, if a program was funded at $100 in fiscal year 2013 and the rate of inflation was 3%, the program’s baseline budget for 2014 would by $100 plus 3%, or $103. Both the President and Congress start the budget process using OMB’s and CBO’s baseline budget projections.  This means that from the very beginning of the process, the federal budget assumes increased spending.  Every single discretionary line item begins with a higher budget than it had the year before.  According to Republicans on the House Budget Committee this bias toward increased spending added, over 10 years, $1.2 trillion to the discretionary budget baseline in 2013. » Read More
  • TPA's New Year's Resolutions for 2014

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on December 31, 2013

    nye

    Every New Year millions of Americans resolve to change their ways and improve their lives by making New Year’s resolutions such as losing weight or changing their behavior to live a healthier lifestyle.  In the spirit of those resolutions, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) urges Congress and the whole federal government to resolve to go on a fiscal diet and change their wasteful spending and regulatory habits.  And, we will be following up on each and every one of these issues (and more) in 2014. The list TPA put together includes a wide range of issues that lawmakers have been involved with and the need for action on many of these is more than obivious. The issues include: Telecommunications/Technology, Defense, Taxes, Energy, and Wasteful Spending.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full list of TPA's New Years Resolutions for 2014!

    » Read More
  • TPA's New Years Resolutions for 2014

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on December 27, 2013

    new years

    Every New Year millions of Americans resolve to change their ways and improve their lives by making New Year’s resolutions such as losing weight or changing their behavior to live a healthier lifestyle.  In the spirit of those resolutions, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) urges Congress and the whole federal government to resolve to go on a fiscal diet and change their wasteful spending and regulatory habits.  And, we will be following up on each and every one of these issues (and more) in 2014. The list TPA put together includes a wide range of issues that lawmakers have been involved with and the need for action on many of these is more than obivious. The issues include: Telecommunications/Technology, Defense, Taxes, Energy, and Wasteful Spending.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full list of TPA's New Years Resolutions for 2014!

     

    » Read More
  • TPA Celebrates Halloween with Taxpayer Tricks & Treats of 2013!

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on October 31, 2013

    jack

    Halloween is quickly approaching which means candy, costumes, jack-o-lanterns and cute trick-or-treaters filling neighborhood sidewalks across America. This also means that it is time for the Taxpayer Protection Alliance’s (TPA) annual Trick or Treat fun. The tricks by the government ghosts, ghouls, and goblins are out once again to scare taxpayers.  The biggest trick played on taxpayers is the $17 trillion debt and a debt ceiling that no longer exists (a ghostly disappearing act).  TPA reached down deep into its bag of goodies and found few Treats so taxpayers don’t turn into Zombies.

     

    TRICKS

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or “The Green Blob”: No stranger to tricks, the General Services Administration (GSA) and US Green Building Council have been in on one for quite some time and TPA has been there every step of the way to ask the tough questions and continue to expose the reality of the (LEED) certification system. TPA warned about the “new” LEED standards, known as LEED v.4 (click here to read previous blog posting).  LEED v.4 is now set for official use as it has been approved. TPA continues to argue that adopting LEED standards would be harmful for taxpayers and businesses.  GSA officials vanished like a ghost when TPA asked submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Click here to read more on TPA’s efforts to unmask LEED.

    To see the all of TPA's Tricks & Treats, click 'read more' below!

    » Read More
  • TPA Celebrates Halloween with Taxpayer Tricks & Treats of 2013!

    David Williams & Michi Iljazi on October 25, 2013

    jackolantern

    Halloween is quickly approaching which means candy, costumes, jack-o-lanterns and cute trick-or-treaters filling neighborhood sidewalks across America. This also means that it is time for the Taxpayer Protection Alliance’s (TPA) annual Trick or Treat fun. The tricks by the government ghosts, ghouls, and goblins are out once again to scare taxpayers.  The biggest trick played on taxpayers is the $17 trillion debt and a debt ceiling that no longer exists (a ghostly disappearing act).  TPA reached down deep into its bag of goodies and found few Treats so taxpayers don’t turn into Zombies. 

     

    TRICKS

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) or “The Green Blob”: No stranger to tricks, the General Services Administration (GSA) and US Green Building Council have been in on one for quite some time and TPA has been there every step of the way to ask the tough questions and continue to expose the reality of the (LEED) certification system. TPA warned about the “new” LEED standards, known as LEED v.4 (click here to read previous blog posting).  LEED v.4 is now set for official use as it has been approved. TPA continues to argue that adopting LEED standards would be harmful for taxpayers and businesses.  GSA officials vanished like a ghost when TPA asked submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Click here to read more on TPA’s efforts to unmask LEED.

    To see the all of TPA's Tricks & Treats, click 'read more' below!

    » Read More
  • TPA President David Willams Debates Washington Post's Chris Cillizza on Earmarks and the Government Shutdown

    Michi Iljazi on October 3, 2013

    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has recently commented on the possibility of a government shutdown, and as it stands now we are headed to day four of the government shutdown that began at midnight on October 1st. The Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate are at an impasse on Obamacare and spending which has resulted in the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years. TPA has said from the outset that there was no reason to be at this point and the clear failure in leadership is disgraceful on all sides as everyone has a share in the blame, be it policy or process.  Taking a closer look at how to come to a resolution to solve the current deadlock between the Senate and House, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza asked TPA President David Williams whether earmarks could have prevented the shutdown.  That’s right, earmarks! TPA has decried earmarks in the past and welcomed the decision to get them out of the political system in DC considering the negative impacts on spending, and behavior with cases of corruption on both sides of the aisle. The debate between Mr. Williams and Mr. Cillizza can be seen here!

    » Read More
  • Who's really responsible for Obamacare? The answer may surprise you

    David Williams on September 27, 2013

    capitol

    (This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on Thursday, September 26, 2013)

    House and Senate Republicans would like you to believe that they are willing to do almost anything — including forcing a government shutdown or a default on the debt ceiling — to stop the implementation of Obamacare. They are rightly appalled at the damage that Obamacare is already doing to our economy and healthcare system, since the implementation thus far has been a train wreck. However, for all the debate, votes to repeal, and genuine opposition from Republicans in Congress, the truth is that the GOP and its profligate ways actually created Obamacare. The story begins in 2005. Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. Earmarks were considered the accepted way of doing business in Washington then and 2005 was the year that the infamous Bridge to Nowhere earmark was born. The plan was for the project to be funded for fiscal year (FY) 2006. The earmark’s “parents” were two prominent Republicans, the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The Bridge to Nowhere is now a part of American folklore as a project that many Alaskans didn’t want and the poster child for government waste. The grassroots fought hard against the bridge and their efforts paid off as the Alaskan legislators were ultimately forced to drop the earmark from the appropriations bill. Conservative activists saw the power of working in concert to reduce government waste and pork-barrel spending. Unfortunately, members of Congress didn’t learn the same lesson. While the grassroots was focused on enacting more conservative policies, Republicans in Congress remained focused on protecting their pet projects. The divide between elected Republicans and ordinary Americans on government spending was clear.

    » Read More
  • Defense Appropriations Bill Passes House (Updated Version of TPA's Amendment Guide)

    Michi Iljazi on July 25, 2013

    Pentagon

    Yesterday (July 24), the House of Representatives passed the 2014 Defense Appropriations Bill by a vote of 315-109 costing taxpayers nearly $600 billion. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) followed the process and watched very closely how the leadership would approach this legislation after going back on their word for an open-process of allowing for full amendment consideration on the recently passed Farm Bill. Advocates for a fair and full debate were granted a bigger victory in this case with a limited-rule that allowed for the consideration of 100 amendments. There were many amendments that TPA had expressed opposition to and many we urged member to support, including an amendment sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Jared Polis (D-Col.), and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) that “Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act” which received the most attention of any amendment. TPA was proud to be a part of numerous bi-partisan coalitions commenting on both the process and the content of the bill. On Tuesday July 23, TPA released a list of amendments that we supported and didn't support. Taxpayers had some victories and some defeats. The most troubling defeats were those amendments flagged by TPA as potential earmarks.

    Click "read more" below to see a list of those amendments and how they fared in voting

    » Read More
  • TPA Details Taxpayer Friendly (and Unfriendly) List of Amendments to Defense Spending Bill

    David Williams on July 23, 2013

    Capitol

    As the House of Representatives continues debate on H.R. 2397, the 2014 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is providing members a detailed guide on specific amendments and how they affect taxpayers.  TPA takes a clear stand on these proposed amendments and explains how each of them could have positive or negative results for the country. It is time for Congress to take steps to ensure that the Department of Defense is given the necessary tools to defend the country and not use this legislation to waste valuable resources.  With 20 years of experience hunting and exposing earmarks, TPA President David Williams has flagged the below items with the label “Earmark Alert” as potential earmarks. TPA will continue to monitor these amendments as the spending bill makes its way through the House, Senate, and eventually conference committee.

    Click read more below for a list of the amendments and Taxpayers Protection Alliance stands

    » Read More
  • Germans Say "NEIN!" To Missile System

    David Williams on June 5, 2013

    The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) has had a rocky road over the last two years and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has chronicled most of that (read previous postings here and here).  MEADS has rightly earned the moniker the "Missile to Nowhere." And, according to a December 4, 2012 Politico article, “Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin said today he feels strongly that the Medium Extended Air Defense System is a ‘waste of money,...’”  Because of the prohibitive cost ($2 billion over budget), schedule delays (10 years behind schedule) and the system's poor performance, the U.S. Army has said it doesn't want MEADS and that it would never use the missiles.  Now a German publication (click here to read the article in German) has dealt MEADS another blow.  According to the June 4 article, “Despite the beautiful promotional images, the Ministry of Defense currently does not know whether the system can ever hit missiles from the sky. In fact, the Ministry does not know what the development will be as designed. In his last report to the Defence Committee he says: "The original development agreement ... contained ...no requirement for a fully comprehensive documentation and archiving of development results "  OUCH!  This latest German criticism comes at a time when Congress is debating another Defense authorization bill.  In the interest of taxpayers and national security MEADS must be terminated immediately and given DAS BOOT (the shoe not the ship)!

    » Read More
  • NEW TPA REPORT: The Expensive Truth Behind Taxpayer-Funded Mail Order Pharmaceuticals

    David Williams on May 6, 2013

    If you were born in the 1970’s (or before) you probably remember the Columbia House record club where you would buy 6 records for a penny but then they would send you a new record every month at full price.  The trick was that you would be billed for each record and the shipments and the records would keep on coming whether you liked it or not.  Well, those days are long gone but there are some folks that are in this situation with mail order pharmaceuticals as they receive thousands of dollars of unwanted or unneeded mail order pharmaceuticals.  Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released a new report that shines a light on the costly truths behind taxpayer subsidized mail order pharmaceuticals (for full report, click here).  The study shows that, while health care and prescription coverage becomes more costly, the delivery of mail order pharmaceuticals grows and is non-transparent and is extremely vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse.  Taxpayers are on the hook for billions of dollars in waste because taxpayer funded healthcare programs such as TRICARE, the Federal Employee Benefits Health Program and Medicare Part D that pay for prescriptions are vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse.  The practice of automatic refills through mail order is the leading cause of this waste.  The report breaks down the expanding role of Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), their lack of transparency as well as the many problems with mail order prescriptions that are put on virtual autopilot.

    » Read More
  • Missile To Nowhere Needs To Be Grounded

    David Williams on April 23, 2013

    Taxpayers may be startled to learn that even though there are automatic spending cuts (sequestration) this year, some of the most wasteful and inefficient programs still get funded. One of the most wasteful and expensive is the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) program.  Despite The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) prohibiting the funding of the program , DoD will be spending $380 million in continuing resolution (CR) funds to continue funding design and development of the program.  Additionally, President Obama left the program out of his budget, but still Defense Secretary Hagel announced in a letter sent this past Monday to the German and Italian Defense ministers, that, “the U.S. would provide the money in 2013 for development of the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), a joint venture between the three countries.”  During a time when the country is experiencing fiscal difficulties and has a limited amount of resources even for defense spending, policy makers should be looking for ways to get the most bang for their buck and MEADS is not it. MEADs, which cost nearly $3 billion so far, has been plagued by consistent scheduling delays, cost overruns, and an overall failure to meet performance requirements.  The Taxpayers Protection Alliance has written numerous blogs on this issue (click here and here).

    » Read More
  • TPA Joins Forces To Warn Senate About Water Resources Development Act of 2013

    on April 11, 2013

    Led by Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with eight other free market and taxpayer groups to urge the United States Senate to give greater scrutiny of misguided and potentially costly provisions in S.601, the Water Resources Development Act of 2013.  The Senate may take up consideration of S. 601 soon. And after rushed consideration in committee, and with the Senate’s attention elsewhere, the Senate and taxpayers deserve a thorough vetting of this far reaching legislation.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the legislation’s impacts on projects, policy, and cost-sharing would cost taxpayers more than $12.5 billion, yet because of budget rules this estimate does not reflect the true potential price tag. For instance, the bill is full of a myriad of provisions that would serve to undercut long-standing cost sharing rules; placing greater burdens on federal taxpayers at a time of severe budgetary pressures.  There are several concerns with the legislation including what appears to be a move to approve whatever the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommends. Projects should meet certain enhanced cost-benefit criteria, subject them to prioritization, and to limit the number of projects. With an estimated project backlog of more than $60 billion for the agency, we cannot simply pile more projects on the to-do list. for these extended beach replenishment projects.  The bill contains a "BRAC" style commission to reduce the backlog of authorized but not constructed projects, but so many projects are excluded from consideration it is far from clear that this effort will help. In fact, this bill could result in an increase in the backlog.  Finally, while the project authorization avoids earmarks, there are several provisions in the bill that are targeted toward narrow interests that could be viewed as akin to earmarks.

    » Read More
  • EARMARK ALERT: Sens. McCain and Coburn Uncover $500 Million In Earmarks In Continuing Resolution

    David Williams on March 13, 2013

    It seems as though the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) today released a list of earmarks worth more than $500 million added to the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution that is slated to fund the government for the rest of the year.  With a $16.7 trillion debt and a deficit eclipsing the $800 billion mark, the Senate should be ashamed for adding more these earmarks to the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution.  Earmarks have been the bribery currency of Congress for many years, as both parties used them to buy votes, bring federal dollars to their district and ultimately get re-elected. Former members of Congress including Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) were sent to jail for accepting bribes to secure earmarks. Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff also spent time in jail in connection with earmarks promised to clients.Earmarks circumvent established budgetary processes and procedures and further exacerbate taxpayers’ cynicism of Washington, D.C. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has called earmarks “the gateway drug to spending addiction in Washington.”  In 2010, the House and Senate agreed to a two year moratorium on earmarks, yet there were reports of Congress backsliding on this promise - with earmarks being found in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bills.  It is time for Congress to be serious about eliminating earmarks for good by passing legislation like S. 1930, the Earmark Elimination Act, which was proposed in 2012 by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).  S. 1930 would have permanently killed earmarks and given life to fiscal responsibility. » Read More
  • Fiscal Cliff Hangover Part II: The House (The Final Insult)

    David Williams on January 2, 2013

    As many people may know by now, the House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the fiscal cliff bill with the vote occurring just before midnight on January 1, 2013. There were no changes to the Senate-passed bill so the same tax increases and spending increases were passed.  Let’s take a short trip down memory lane.  The bill extends the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts for individuals making less than $400,000 and families making less than $450,000. In addition, the payroll tax cut will expire meaning that payroll taxes will increase from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent, a real tax increase on the Middle Class.  The real kick in the wallet is a two-month delay in the automatic spending cuts (sequestration).  As reported by Breitbart.com, “According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending [a revised Congressional Budget Office estimate pegs the number at $25 billion] while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.”  Click here here for a full list of provisions as reported by Politico.  With a $1 trillion deficit and a debt that has eclipsed $16 trillion, the lack of spending cuts is shameful.  Even if all the revenue is used for deficit reduction (which it likely won’t be), the total impact to the $1.1 trillion deficit will be $63.5 billion (if no more spending cuts are approved and the sequestration is avoided).

    » Read More
  • Round and Round Taxpayers Go

    David Williams on December 6, 2012

    Carrousel

    While other museums may cost Americans more, no pork project takes taxpayers for a ride quite like the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum.  In 1915, carousel maker Allan Herschell created the Allan Herschell Company, based just outside of Buffalo in North Tonawanda, N.Y., the carousel capital of the time.  Between 1916 and the late 1950s, the Herschell Carrousel Factory produced about 3,000 carved wooden carousels before moving to another location and eventually being bought out. The vacant North Tonawanda factory was restored and opened as the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum in 1983.  The merry-go-round museum draws a paltry 15,000 visitors per year, and with admission fees topping out at $5 for adults, the museum's administrators are always on the lookout for more money. Instead of improving private fundraising efforts, or simply closing the flagging facility, museum managers went on the dole, badgering local, state and federal government agencies for taxpayer-funded handouts.  The plan has worked. Since 2005, government giveaways to the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum have cost federal, state and local taxpayers a combined $410,431.

    » Read More
  • Taxpayers Are Thankful That These Turkeys Won't Return

    David Williams on November 20, 2012

    During this season of thanks, rather than focusing on what Washington has done this year to disappoint us, let’s look at one thing taxpayers can be thankful for: no earmark revival.  Last week the House GOP came damagingly close to resurrecting Congress’ pork-barrel spending ways.  The measure may have appeared innocuous enough, but Washington’s seasoned insiders knew to be on guard.  According to Transportation Weekly, Representative Don Young (R-AK) proposed “an amendment to bring back earmarks, if the earmarks go to local units of government.  The present earmark ban in GOP Conference rules reads as follows: ‘...no Member shall request a congressional earmark, limited tax benefit, or limited tariff benefit, as such terms have been described in the Rules of the House.’  The Young amendment would add the parenthetical ‘(except if the recipient of the earmark is a unit of local government)’ after the word ‘earmark,’ which would have the effect of bringing back most of the earmarks…”  Although Rep. Young had hoped the House Republican Conference would vote in favor of his amendment, thankfully for taxpayers everywhere his proposal did not garner enough support prompting Young to withdraw it. » Read More
  • PLEASE! Don't Call it a Comeback!

    David Williams on November 2, 2012

    Say it ain’t so.  When you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, neither option looks good.  So maybe we should give Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) a little bit of flack for saying he’ll consider loosening the earmark ban given that he’s in such a heated election battle.  Not so fast, some actions are just downright unacceptable, no matter what sort of pickle you’re in.  It is not ok even to consider bringing back earmarks even if promising pork to your district is the thing that will gain you reelection.  Politicians don’t like losing lections, but they really don’t like losing power.  This is why we keep rehashing the earmark debate.  No matter if it’s an earmark by a different name or a blatant example of dole for a district, the practice is not acceptable period.  Rep. Boustany had no problem alluding to the fact in a recent Politico article that, “Clearly the earmark ban has limited members of Congress’s ability to deal with important public works projects.”   In other words he’s upset he’s lost that bargaining chip and bragging right to take back money to his district.  The only thing that is clear in Boustany’s statement is that he clearly doesn’t understand what constitutes “important public works.” » Read More
  • The Proliferation of Executive Branch Earmarks

    David Williams on August 6, 2012

    Back in December of 2011, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance uncovered earmarks in the Defense Appropriations Bill (read here) despite Congress’s self-imposed earmark moratorium.  That is disconcerting news for people who thought that earmarks were a thing of the past. Even though the practice of congressional earmarking has tapered off, there is a new kind of earmark that needs scrutiny, executive branch (President and agency) earmarks and they are picking up right where Congress left off.  It’s true that the Constitution grants Congress the unique power of the purse, but that doesn’t mean Congress won’t give the administration significant discretion when it comes to doling out money.  In fact, often times the greater the amount of wiggle room a member provides to agencies is directly correlated with the amount of money that agencies will end up putting in the member’s district.  The member of Congress certainly benefits from this arrangement because it serves the purpose of bringing tax dollars to their district.  Best of all, because the administration is the one that technically hands out the money the member of Congress is conveniently exonerated from any accusation that these grants come as earmarks that has been orchestrated by the member of Congress. 

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  • Time for the Senate Appropriations Committee to Eliminate MEADS

    David Williams on August 2, 2012

    There is quite a bit of talk about getting rid of Defense sequestration (automatic spending cuts) that was voted on by Congress and signed by the President last year as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling.  In truth, sequestration is a lazy way to cut spending.  What Congress needs to do is cut Defense spending and cut it wisely.  One program that should be eliminated immediately is the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). The House Appropriations Committee has zeroed out MEADS’ funding, and the National Defense Authorization Act in both the Senate and the House struck additional funding for it as well.  Now is the time for the Senate Appropriations Committee to eliminate funding. MEADS has rightly earned the moniker the "Missile to Nowhere." Because of the prohibitive cost ($2 billion over budget), schedule delays (10 years behind schedule) and the system's poor performance, the U.S. Army has said it doesn't want MEADS and that it would never use the missiles.

    » Read More
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