The Taxpayers Protection Alliance has expressed concerns about government-funded broadband for many years. One program in particular that TPA has highlighted has been the Rural Utilities Service Broadband Loan Program. We were encouraged last year when during last year’s consideration of the Farm Bill, the Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) which laid out the 25 percent unserved-household standard for the RUS Broadband Loan Program. This effort received bi-partisan support from co-sponsors Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Michael Bennet (D-Col.), which made significant reforms to the RUS Broadband Loan Program. Even though the program should be eliminated completely, limiting the RUS to serving areas where 25 percent of the households in an applicant’s proposed service is unserved is a step in the right direction. Today (May 3) TPA sent a letter to the Senate encouraging and urging the Senate to keep Sen. Warner’s language as they craft this year’s Farm Bill.
(The following blog posting is from Joseph Kasibante, President of the National Taxpayers Protection Organisation in Uganda. TPA supports Mr. Kasibante, and all taxpayer and free market groups around the globe) Although high taxes are generally assumed to be the panacea to balance government budget and finance government expenditure, a lower tax budget and accountable governance has proved to be the most scientific methods government can adequately use to stimulate the economy. A lower tax budget leaves money in people’s pockets to buy things they want or money that can be saved and invested in whatever manner they choose. Consumers can demonstrate their power by influencing the course of the economy and making themselves heard in matters of ethics and policymaking. In what has come to be known as the 'wealth effect' the consumers step up purchases when they feel richer and cut back when they feel poorer, shows how a high tax budget accompanied by waste can push the economy into recession. In simple terms budget can be interpreted as a future plan we cannot immediately fulfill. The personal or family budget is a financial plan that helps individuals to balance income and expenses. A business budget is generally used as a tool to formulate intelligent decisions on the management and growth of a business venture. However, the most complicated budgetary process is a government budget, which is a plan for the collection and expenditure of monies needed to defray public expenses. There are five rigid stages of government budgeting: preparation, presentation, authorization, execution, and audit. I will dwell on budget preparation stage where taxes are the focal point of the budget framework. Clarifying the science of a lower tax budget evolving higher purchasing power in the whole economy, taxes must also not be too law to meet government priorities.
The answer to that question may not be what you want to hear. There was $95 billion in waste and duplication. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released two reports, Department of Everything, which highlights waste at the Pentagon, and the Wastebook 2012, which highlights waste throughout the federal government. In conjunction with Our Generation (OG), the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) released a video showing Washington, D.C., tourists giving their thoughts on wasteful government spending. As examples of wasteful spending, TPA and OG highlighted the $1.5 million for Pentagon beef jerky and the $325,000 the National Science Foundation (NSF) spent on a RoboSquirrels program. Both of these projects were highlighted in reports by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). According to Sen. Coburn’s report, Department of Everything, “Beef jerky so good it will shock and awe your taste buds. That is the goal of an ongoing Pentagon project, which is attempting to develop its own brand of jerky treats that are the bomb! Only, the money is coming from a program specially created to equip soldiers with the weapons they need.” Sen. Coburn highlighted the $325,000 for the NSF RoboSquirrels in his Wastebook 2012. TPA and OG spoke to visitors from California to Ohio to Texas to New Jersey and the frustration was always the same. When they were asked for thoughts on members of Congress making $174,000 per year ($285,000 with benefits), people were dumbfounded. They wondered why our elected officials made so much and received so much time off for vacation when American families across the nation—their constituents—are struggling financially.
President Obama released his long awaited budget today (access all budget documents here). Two months overdue and dead on arrival to a dysfunctional and divided Congress, the fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget is nothing more than a wish list of things that will never happen. It is important to look through the budget and see where the President’s priorities are. The budget proposes to spend $3.78 trillion in FY 2014. That is $10.3 billion per day, $431 million per hour and $7.2 million per minute. There are two fundamental problems with the budget, there is too much revenue asked for and not enough spending cuts. Even though the budget calls for $24 billion in specific spending cuts, Defense spending alone will be $52 billion above the budget cap for next year saving some programs that should be eliminated such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The President’s budget also wants to raise more revenue via tax increases on the wealthy and a new program to offer preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families through higher tobacco taxes.
On April 3, 2013 the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, through an initiative led by Americans for Tax Reform, joined with more than 40 other free market and taxpayer groups to support Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) bill to create the Committee to Reduce Government Waste. This bill signals a serious step toward reforming federal spending and provides prudent lawmakers with an important tool to decrease the size of government. The letter points out that the Committee to Reduce Government Waste is not a new idea—in fact, the committee existed first in the 77th Congress after it was proposed by Senator Harry F. Byrd Sr. (D-Va.). Named after its creator, the “Byrd Committee” was tasked solely with cutting unnecessary and redundant federal programs and was able to enact real reform—the Committee netted over $38 billion in savings (in adjusted dollars) in its first few years of existence. The bickering over the past few months over a two percent cut in federal spending shows that fiscal restraint is hard to come by. Institutional changes, such as implementing a committee focused only on cutting spending, is the only way to ensure lasting reform for taxpayers. Passage of this legislation will be a serious step forward in advancing spending cuts and finally give taxpayers a much-needed congressional voice.
Although the current state of the federal government comes up short a lot of the time, there are a few redeeming glimmers of hope every now and then. More times than not, those glimmers come from an entity of government that’s asked to check up on, monitor, and audit other components and arms of the federal government. These beacons of fiscal responsibility are the Inspector Generals (IGs). IGs are extremely helpful to taxpayers for a variety of reasons, and they certainly strike a fear in whichever agency that’s the one under the microscope. For example, just recently the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) IG found that a “Michigan battery-maker that received a visit from President Obama spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in stimulus grant money for workers to do things like watch movies and play cards, according to an inspector general report that blames poor management by the Energy Department. The wasted labor is a system of more widespread mismanagement of the company’s $151 million matching grant…”
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.
On February 27, 2013, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with groups from the Left and Right to urge Congress and the President to reduce wasteful and ineffective Pentagon spending to make us safer. There is a growing consensus—among members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, policy wonks of various stripes, and even defense industry CEOs—that lawmakers can, and should, find areas for substantial savings in the Pentagon’s bloated budget. The colaition, and military experts believe we can realize savings of at least $50 billion to $100 billion per year over 10 years in the Pentagon budget—without compromising national security. In fact, such savings will make us safer since our security depends on a sound strategy and a strong economy. The Pentagon must confront the threat to our economy with the same vigor, determination, and skill it has shown toward other urgent tasks. Our military might is not measured by how many dollars we spend but how we spend our dollars. The signatories to this letter are: Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for America's Future, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Cost of Government Center, CREDO, Freedom Action, Friends Committee on National Legislation, National Priorities Project, National Taxpayers Union, Peace Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Project On Government Oversight, Republican Liberty Caucus, R Street, Take Back Washington, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, USAction, U.S. PIRG, Women’s Action for New Direction, and Win Without War. Read the full letter here.
On February 14, 2013, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with nine other taxpayer and free market groups to urge Congress to take common sense steps to reform federal supports for agriculture and save taxpayers at least $100 billion over the next decade. The 113th Congress has a prime opportunity to reduce the federal government’s meddling in the agricultural sector while helping to pay down our $16 trillion national debt. A number of common sense steps can be taken to create a more accountable, responsive, and cost-effective agricultural policy. Despite the 2012 drought being one of the most severe in history, the agriculture industry “suffered” with near-record profits. Given today’s extraordinarily high commodity prices and farm profits and our monumental fiscal crisis, agriculture subsidies should be reduced by at least $100 billion over the next decade. Federal supports for agriculture must be evaluated on their own merits. Though explosive growth in nutrition programs, particularly the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), must be addressed, that discussion must not be used to sidetrack necessary reforms to federal subsidies to agricultural businesses. Congress must consider changing the law under which America operates in the absence of a new farm bill. The current fallback, the horribly outdated Agricultural Act of 1949, forces taxpayers to decide between Farm Bills with inadequate reforms or reverting to even more detrimental World War II-era law.
Many people are accustomed to waking up on January 1 with a headache. This year taxpayers woke up to not only the usual headache from a night of excess, but also a headache from the excesses of Congress and the President. In the early morning hours of today (January 1, 2013) the Senate passed a bill to soften the blow of going over the fiscal cliff. In reality, the bill may do more harm than good. 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 cute 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 while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.” UPDATE (3:00 pm): The Congressional Budget Office has pegged the spending cuts at $25 billion. 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 $64.5 billion (if no more spending cuts are approved and the sequestration is avoided).