Congress and the incoming Trump Administration have an unprecedented opportunity to right our nation’s fiscal course. But with such high rewards from electoral victories, come very high stakes to ensure that the policies promised during the campaign are enacted.
With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, there will be no more excuses for failing to make meaningful reforms in the areas of our nation’s tax code, Obamacare, and defense spending, to name only a few.
More than 6.5 billion taxpayers in 180 countries are being forced to contribute to the World Health Organization's (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the United Nations’ tobaccocontrol agency. The WHO has been rebuked for banning journalists, malpractice, silencing stakeholders, and imposing onerous taxes and regulations on countries around the world.
According to public documents, the agency is failing taxpayers around the world and harming its own effort to reduce tobacco use by operating in an offensive, reckless and financially wasteful manner.
Government-owned internet networks have become a popular trend among state and local policymakers across the United States. More than 450 communities are estimated to have some form of taxpayer-funded, government-owned internet service, including more than 80 cities with large-scale public fiber-to-thehome broadband networks.
Unfortunately for taxpayers, the popularity of municipal broadband projects tends to overshadow the reality that government broadband networks are almost always a financial catastrophe for the government and its taxpayers. In an effort to "keep up with the Joneses" state and local officials frequently pour money into government internet projects without considering that nearly every government that has gone into the internet business found itself worse off for doing so.
In our second report, Animal Justice Project USA and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance have uncovered further examples of a shocking waste of taxpayer money used to addict animals to recreational drugs as part of the "Deadly Doses: A Legal Low" campaign.
The information discovered by investigating more than 95 experiments from 21 prestigious universities appears to belie the strategic plan released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the end of 2015. The NIH plan, in response to a reduction in research funding, places a renewed focus on spending its limited resources wisely and effectively.
Examples of studies of the effects of recreational drugs on animals, including those featured in this report, certainly do not conform to the NIH’s new directive regarding responsible spending.
Washington D.C. residents and visitors have been told they will benefit greatly from the new streetcar system that remains under construction in the nation's capital city. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) claims the DC Streetcar, as it is officially titled, "will make travel within the District much easier for residents, workers and visitors, and it will complement the existing transit options." DDOT claims that the multi-million dollar taxpayer-funded project is needed because the existing Metrorail and Metrobus does not have the necessary infrastructure to connect certain neighborhoods, according to DDOT officials.
Moreover, they insist the new streetcar system, which has been undergoing "testing" remains under construction without an official start date, could help to revitalize commercial corridors, lessen traffic congestion and alleviate pollution. At least those are the overarching objectives the project's government boosters have identified in their public pronouncements. But right from the beginning, the project has been beset with financial difficulties that suggest taxpayers should not expect to see a tangible return on their investment anytime soon.
West Virginia's state government will spend $4.7 billion of state taxpayers' money this fiscal year. That equates to a staggering $2,600 for every man, woman and child in the Mountain State - and doesn’t include a dime of $14.6 billion in federal money the state receives.
That already shocking number is likely to increase dramatically in the very near future.
According to State Budget Office projections, the state-portion of the state budget is on track to reach nearly $5.3 billion by 2019 – an 11 percent increase in just 4 years. Planned increases in state spending will cost each of West Virginia’s 741,000 households an average of $1,782 during that time.
Animal Justice Project USA and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance have united to uncover an epidemic of deplorable government spending on recreational drug experiments on animals as part of the Animal Justice Project USA's 'Deadly Doses: A Legal Low' campaign. The experiments not only appear to be of no value to human health but also lead to the needless suffering and death of countless animals.
In total, we identified 95 experiments related to the effects of recreational drugs on helpless animals. These trials occurred at 21 prestigious institutions including Yale, Stanford, Caltech, UC Berkeley, the University of Texas Health Science Center, UCLA, Scripps Research Institute, the University of Florida, USC, and Arizona State.
When the National Football League (NFL) season kicks off Thursday, the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will battle in a stadium built using $72 million of taxpayers' hard-earned money. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new.
Since 1995, a staggering 29 of the 31 stadiums that house NFL teams received public subsidies for construction, renovation or both. Between 1995 and today, taxpayers have been forced to spend nearly $7 billion subsidizing NFL stadium construction and renovation projects.
The subsidies amount to little more than crass corporate welfare. After all, the handouts for stadium construction and renovation projects amount to money being taken from struggling taxpayers by politicians, then funneled to the billionaire owners of the teams in order to reduce their overhead cost and increase their profits.
The 2007 - 2008 financial crisis left a sour taste for Wall Street in the mouths of many Americans. Policymakers and pundits chastised financial investors for being greedy and preying on Middle America. However, one does not have the scratch the surface too deeply to identify the real culprit of the financial bubble and fallout from its collapse: Washington.
Government policies, specifically those using taxpayer-provided money and taxpayer-backed loans, ignited the fire. Other government-imposed rules which incentivized banks to securitize mortgages that in a free market would have been undesirable (low quality and high risk), along with the government purchase of those mortgages, burned the house down.
The renewable energy world was abuzz recently over news that the empty California office space once occupied by Solyndra, the most notorious of America’s green stimulus debacles, is now being leased by another rising star in the solar firmament, Elon Musk’s SolarCity. This was heralded in industry circles as long-sought redemption - as proof that Big Solar finally is emerging from Solyndra’s shadow.
"Solar is moving on" was the message dominating the Twittersphere as news of the move spread. But is solar moving on? Are Solyndra-like scandals, and the conditions and dynamics that cause them, really things of the past? Or are new Solyndras - the spawns of Solyndra - still out there, just waiting to have the plug pulled?
In recent years, government has positioned solar energy as a potential solution to address both environmental concerns and the need for greater domestic energy independence. Billions of tax dollars have been spent on grants, tax breaks and other handouts to incentivize the solar energy industry. Efforts to spur solar power production and the widespread adoption of solar products, such as solar panels and solar-powered water heaters, however, have proven dramatically unproductive.
Despite massive government subsidies and untold numbers of programs to promote solar electricity, solar power is expected to make up just 0.6 percent of the total electricity generated in America in 2015, according to the Energy Information Administration. Worse, government efforts to promote solar energy have resulted in waste, fraud and abuse of billions in tax dollars and put even more of the public’s money unnecessarily at risk.
The country is $17.6 trillion in debt (and counting). Many pieces of legislation have gone unfinished including the annual spending bills that Congress has failed to pass for the last several years. In the midst of all of this financial and legislative disarray, Congress is on a five-week August recess and they are not slated to return until a week after Labor Day. When they do return, they are only expected to be in session for two weeks before heading home to campaign for re-election. Americans continue to be disappointed and disgusted with Congress. According to Gallup, "...with several key public opinion indicators as negative or nearly as negative as they have been in any recent midterm election year. This includes congressional job approval, which, at 16%, is on pace to be the lowest in a midterm election year since Gallup first measured it in 1974."1 And, Congress is becoming increasingly out of touch. No one exemplifies this more than retiring Congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.), who told Roll Call that, "Members of Congress are underpaid."
With the State of Rhode Island in economic crisis, and with massive structural budget deficits projected for years to come, Ocean State lawmakers have the opportunity to both grow the economy and reduce deficits by trimming non-essential spending and taxes from the fiscal year 2015 (FY15) budget.
It’s about priorities. Good government is about setting spending priorities, preserving opportunities in the state for residents who wish to succeed. Tax relief and job creation for Rhode Island families and reducing the crushing regulatory burden on the state’s business sector must be weighed against nonessential, sometimes wasteful, spending for projects that produce little benefit to the average resident.
The country is $16.7 trillion in debt (and counting). Many pieces of legislation have gone unfinished including the annual spending bills that Congress has failed to pass for the last several years. During all this financial and legislative turmoil, Congress took 30 days off beginning in August. When they return in September their days are numbered (nine legislative days by one count) as the clock ticks down on another fiscal year. This inactivity is not sitting well with citizens. According to CBS News, "This 113th Congress is on track to become the least productive in history...Congress has passed just 23 laws this year, including one to name a bridge and another to promote fishing in Tennessee's Cumberland River." It is no wonder that citizens are frustrated with the failure of their elected representatives in Congress. In fact, a recent Gallup Poll showed that 14 percent of those surveyed "approve" of the way "Congress is handling their job." This dissatisfaction cuts across party lines.
Prescription drug benefits Health care costs are on the rise and this increase will affect employers, employees and taxpayers. A key part of the health care delivery system in the United States is the use of prescription drugs. According to a 2010 heath care tracking survey, two-thirds of all Americans-and nearly 90 percent of seniors-reported taking at least one prescription drug in the past year. These prescription drug benefits are often built into the underlying health insurance plans. Prescription drug programs can range from minimal and insignificant coverage to full coverage amounting to tens of thousands of dollars per year. The vast majority of health care plans fall somewhere in between and result in billions in healthcare spending per year. While prescription drug benefits only amount to ten percent of all heath care spending in the U.S., this spending can still have a large impact on the cost of health care. Any program of such a large scale can benefit from continued evaluation and cost-control measures.
Environmentally-focused nongovernmental organizations (NGO) are a valid and, oftentimes, valuable part of global political life. NGO's allow people with a shared interest or concern to impact policies on a multinational level. Much like nonprofit and political organizations in the United States, however, when tax dollars are used to fund NGOs, taxpayers are often forced to fund organizations that are at odds with their own beliefs and values.
Environmental NGOs are especially precarious to fund with American tax dollars for a number of reasons. As this study illustrates, environmental NGOs can be controversial in what they support. They can work in opposition to the improvement of the lives of people. They can fail to protect endangered animals and address environmental concerns. They can buy political favor. They can sell endorsements. They can misuse tax dollars. They can exaggerate and lie to make their point seem more appealing. They are unaccountable to taxpayers - and those taxpayers are on the hook for tens of millions of dollars every year.
Over the past several decades, Michigan has had an extremely low rate of income growth compared with the nation, indeed the lowest rate amongst the 50 American states in the period from 1977 to 2011. The failure to adopt a "rightto-work" (RTW) law is one feature of Michigan’s economic environment that has significantly contributed to this economic sluggishness.
RTW laws, which have been enacted in 23 states, protect workers from compulsory union membership (or at least from compulsory payment of union dues) as a requirement of employment. States with RTW laws have generally been more prosperous, experiencing higher rates of economic growth. Moreover, people have moved in large numbers to RTW states, signaling that many perceive that these states offer a higher quality of life.
America is a country full of museums. In fact, according to the American Association of Museums, there are at least 17,500 museums in the United States. What many Americans don’t know is that all levels of government are subsidizing these museums through a myriad of grants and earmarks. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance looks at a handful of taxpayer-funded museums and vacation points of interest in its latest expose, The Top 5 Most Ridiculous Taxpayer Tourist Traps.
At the center of the funding of this collection of taxpayer-subsidized museums and historic homes is the National Park Service’s Save America’s Treasures (SAT) program. Established in 1998 by President Clinton, SAT requires that funding from the federal government be matched by other sources of funding. Since there is no mandate requiring that the "other" funds come from private sources, additional state or local tax dollars are often used to match the federal funds. As a result, taxpayers may pay two or even three times to fund the same project. Traditionally, half of the SAT’s federal funds are awarded through a competitive process administered by the NPS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The other half is reserved for congressional earmarks.
Citizens across the country are struggling to make ends meet. They are frustrated with the failure of their elected representatives in Congress to address pressing national problems to make things better for all Americans. Compounding their frustration is the fact that Members of Congress receive pay and benefits far in excess of what average working Americans receive. In addition to a salary of $174,000 per year, which by itself puts Members of Congress among the highest-paid 5 percent of American workers, Members of Congress receive more generous fringe benefits than typical American employees. In fact, congressional compensation including benefits totals around $285,000 per year. In a time when unemployment rates are at unacceptably high levels and those who are working are often subject to "pay for performance" standards, it is galling to many to hear of the generous pay and benefits Congress has provided for itself. It is not surprising that Congress has such an abysmal approval rating.