When members of the Senate debated the 2013 Farm Bill, theu were faced with many difficult choices. Senators from rural states were naturally protective of their farming constituents when crop insurance was debated. Senators representing urban areas were sensitive to the cuts in the Food Stamp program (for TPA's work on the Food Stamp issue click here
). But, there was absolutely no excuse for the Senate failing to eliminate a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that would duplicate efforts to inspect catfish already in place in the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This USDA program wastes $30 million in taxpayer funds annually and provides no food safety benefit whatsoever.
This week, the Senate passed the nearly $1 trillion dollar Farm Bill by a vote of 66-27. The focus is now turning to the House and their version of the legislation scheduled for action in the coming weeks. While there are a few portions of the legislation that are beneficial to consumers, 80% of the Farm Bill falls under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as Food Stamps. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance shares the concerns of many free-market oriented groups who feel that reforming the Farm Bill is extremely important and we are also in full support of separating Food Stamps and having specific legislation for Agriculture policy and for SNAP. This week, led by Heritage Action for America, TPA joined with multiple free-market and taxpayer groups signing a coalition letter addressed to the House which calls for the needed separation of Food Stamps from the Farm Bill. We cannot fully reform Agriculture Policy in a meaningful way until we make sure that the Farm Bill is focused solely on Agriculture.
To read the full letter, click read more below
There is no question that consumers are overtaxed in today’s marketplace and the need for relief is always a welcome piece of news. This week, the House reintroduced the Wireless Tax Fairness Act (WTFA) and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has supported this billthat is aimed at protecting consumers from targeted tax increases on wireless services. The newly minted WTFA from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) would give wireless customers a break fromexcessive state and local government taxes on cell phones and the bill enjoys bipartisan support with over 100 members cosponsoring the legislation. WTFA wouldn’t require any states to give up revenue earned, but what the bill would do is place a moratorium for 5 years, where all stakeholders would work together to figure out exactly which path to take on wireless taxes that would be beneficial to all parties involved (consumers, businesses, state/local governments. The legislation also calls for the very same stakeholders to find a solution to address the already high tax rates burdening the wireless industry.
Satellite TV Dish (Courtesy Jan Tik)
The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) was passed by both chambers of Congress in 2010 and renewed the blanket license allowing “satellite operators to deliver distant signals to subscribers who cannot get a viewable signal from their local affiliate.” The main goal being that satellite TV companies (i.e. Dish and DirecTV) can be allowed to retransmit to local market subscribers a network TV signal from outside the subscribers' market. We now sit three years later and two things are clear: First, STELA must be reauthorized by December of 2014; Second, while reauthorization is important, there is also a real chance to make STELA a more free-market friendly vehicle for providers. This week the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will be holding a hearing that will continue the discussion of STELA reauthorization that began back in February of this year. Representative Steve Scalise (R-La.) sits on the subcommittee and has championed legislation aimed at strengthening free-market principles as it relates to telecommunications in a sea of constantly changing technological advancements. The Next Generation TV Marketplace Act, sponsored by Mr. Scalise would do just that.
The goal of balancing fiscal responsibility with efficiency when it comes to Defense spending has always been an important issue. In fact, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance has done extensive work on this matter and it is always encouraging to see other free-market organizations join in the effort to identify smart ways where money can be saved in defense spending, without jeopardizing important programs essential to national security. Last week, a joint report put together by NTU and the R Street Institute was released entitled “Defending America, Defending Taxpayers: How Pentagon Spending Can Better Reflect Conservative Values” which focuses on the number of ways that the Pentagon’s massive budget can be cut, saving nearly $1.9 trillion dollars with 100 specific cuts to reflect smart defense policy, while at the same time being beneficial to taxpayers noting that the, “‘universe’ of programs and processes in need of reform at the Pentagon is more than large enough to allow for compliance with so-called sequestration while maintaining the strongest and most capable military the world has ever known.” There are many recommendations that the report’s authors, Pete Sepp and Andrew Moylan, indentify and though they are all achievable it is not likely we will be able to see them all implemented, but what is important is that the report gives specific ways that the Pentagon can become more efficient, without deviating from their role as an agency vested with providing national security. Savings in the report include: $878.5 billion through 30 recommendations by overhauling deficient processes and management structures, including a reduction in DoD printing costs, consolidation of foreign language contracts, combining support services at joint bases, and a full audit of Pentagon finances; $618.6 billion through 20 recommendations with personnel, compensation, and benefit reforms ranging from less spending on military bands to capping the troop presence in Europe; from health care benefit restructuring to adjusting the "high-three" retirement formula; and $385.8 billion through 50 recommendations by eliminating wasteful, unnecessary, or low-priority weapons systems, such as the SM-3 Block II-B missile (eliminated in favor of less expensive options), the F-35 fighter (replaced with other jets), refurbishment of M-1 tanks (delayed), and the Virginia class submarine (reduced in procurement).
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been following developments on the Farm Bill over the last several weeks and with yesterday’s cloture vote of 75-22 in favor to proceed, we are closer to the $955 billion piece of legislation passing the Senate. The bill is loaded with subsidies and excessive spending, and there have been efforts to call attention to Senators about the wasteful programs that are in serious of need of reform. The Chattanooga Times Free Press published an opinion piece yesterday which highlighted several free-market thinkers including TPA, the National Taxpayers Union, and the Heritage Foundation, who offered their take on how Congress can improve the Farm Bill. The Bill is expected to pass the Senate but may have a more difficult time in the House of Representatives (fingers crossed).
To read the article, click read more below
IRS spent over $50,000 on videos for conferences according to an Inspector General
The Internal Revenue Service is under intense scrutiny as new information on the scandal involving the deliberate targeting of conservative groups continues to be uncovered, with the latest being congressional testimony offered yesterday by individuals who were directly targeted by the IRS as they were seeking to form their own independent organizations. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance issued a strong statement just after this story broke, and now yet another report out this week from the Treasury Department sheds light on another scandal, the IRS’s spending on conferences during fiscal years 2010-2012. The major highlights of the report reveal an agency that has wasted millions of dollars on needless activities and what is worse is that during this time procedures during conferences did not require the IRS to track and report actual conference costs. The report focuses widely on the SB/SE Division All Managers Continuing Professional Education (CPE) conference held in Anaheim, CA, which cost a staggering $4,133,183. This was the most expensive of all the conferences held during the 2010-2012 period, and thus the Inspector General looked closely at the expenses of this event. The real waste to taxpayers can be seen as we learn how these events were put together and the excessive spending on things that seem to be nothing more than frivolity.
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)!
Click here to view the whole infographic put togther by Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance sent a letter to the members of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet ahead of their hearing this afternoon on the current state of wireless communications in the United States. The letter expresses strong support for the increased sales of wireless spectrum by the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] whereby taxpayers, consumers, and businesses will all share in the benefits of faster wireless services, generated revenue, and increased competition in the free-market. The government owns 60% of the best spectrum for wireless usage and they have the power to put it up for auction which would translate into all the benefits discussed earlier for consumers, businesses, and taxpayers. TPA will be in attendance during today’s subcommittee hearing, and is looking forward to this subject being a much-needed part of today’s conversation.
To the read the full letter, click read more below
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On Friday, May 31, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance urged the Senate to end the government’s duplicate catfish inspection program, which wastes $30 million in taxpayer funds annually. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already inspects imported catfish, a food it labels as “low risk” for contamination. However, as a payoff to the domestic catfish industry, language was added to the pork-laden 2008 Farm Bill to add a second inspection under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the Government Accountability Office and the USDA, preparing for the program’s implementation cost taxpayers $19.8 million in fiscal year (FY) 2012 – all without a single inspection. Similar amounts were likely spent in FY 2013, according to Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)
. TPA applauds Senators McCain and Shaheen, as well as the 11 other senators from both parties, who are leading the fight to repeal this provision. Doing so today would save taxpayers $165 million in future spending, according to the Government Accountability Office.” Visit http://repealcatfish.com/
for more information on the USDA’s catfish inspection program.