Right now in Washington congressional leaders are crafting spending bills to continue the funding of the government and there is always a temptation when writing an appropriations bill to fill it with unnecessary spending. This is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon but there are ways to combat this overspending and Congress has even played a role at times. Last week, in an effort led by the National Taxpayers Union, TPA joined several other free-market and taxpayer groups in urging the Congress to follow the spending limits set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BAC) and the House passed budget when it comes time to pass appropriations bills. In a time where we are facing serious debt and deficit problems, it is crucial that Congress does not break their own rules and exceed the spending limits set forth in the Sequester, and in fiscal year 2014, compliance means a reduction in total discretionary spending by 2 percent to a level of $967 billion… Congress must adhere to this limit to show taxpayers that fiscal discipline is feasible in a time when it is absolutely necessary. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance will be following all the latest developments as it relates to the upcoming appropriations bills and we hope that Congress will act responsibly.
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.
Every two years, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases its so-called high-risk list. This is the list of areas of federal spending that are vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse. And, this year, just 48 hours after the President’s State of the Union address, GAO released their update for 2013. Titled, “High-Risk Series: An Update,” which details 30 high-risk areas of the federal government. Two areas were removed and two new areas were added to the high-risk list. The two areas that were removed included “Management of Interagency Contracting,” and “Internal Revenue Service Business Systems Modernization.” The two new areas added to this list were “limiting the Federal Government’s Fiscal Exposure by Better Managing Climate Change Risks” and “Mitigating Gaps in Weather Satellite Data.” With 28 “repeat offenders,” the list clearly shows that there is quite a bit of work to do. With all the talk of deficits, debt, and the sequester, there couldn’t be a better time to discuss options on making the government more efficient and save taxpayer dollars.
Nobel Prize winning economists can be wrong. On January 28, 2013, while promoting his new book, economist Paul Krugman told viewers on MSNBC’s Morning Joe that deficits don’t matter. He has probably said that before, but his remarks should be viewed with renewed interest and scorn because they run counter to what is playing out in the U.S. economy and the halls of Congress right now. The government reported on Wednesday that the U.S. economy contracted by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, the first time growth has been negative since mid-2009. Analysts expected the GDP growth to be 1 percent to 1.2 percent. This period of economic growth occurred during a time when Congress raised taxes on the job creators and even middle class Americans. Budget battles over the last two years have been precisely about deficits and debt and the United States experienced a credit downgrade in the summer of 2011 as the country struggled through a debt ceiling increase. As Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough wrote in a Politico op-ed in response to Krugman’s appearance on his show, “His argument also runs counter to what I have been saying in Congress and in the media since 1994.” Scarborough went on to elaborate who else agrees with him, “Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass, who agrees with former Joint Chief chairman Michael Mullen, that longterm debt poses the greatest threat to America 's national security. Richard took exception to the suggestion that deficits don't matter and that longterm debt can be pushed to the side for years to come. Mr. Haass, Admiral Mullen and former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles all believe that entitlements and debt are the most pressing challenges we face as a country over the next few decades.”
On Thursday November 8, 2012, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) joined with 21 other taxpayer and free market groups to urge Congress to stand firm and hold the line on the budget sequester set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011. With the federal government facing yet another year of projected deficit spending exceeding $1 trillion, Congress must keep in place the $109 billion in sequestration spending restraint scheduled for 2013. Delaying this action will only make it harder to get our fiscal house in order, in the process weakening our economy, saddling future generations with debt, and further undermining Congress’s credibility to lead. Our nation’s debt has increased by approximately $1.7 trillion since the current sequester mechanism was first developed in August 2011. Permitting these cuts to occur would represent merely a modest first step toward fixing our debt crisis. Even with the Budget Control Act’s sequester and spending caps, total government spending is still expected to grow, albeit at a slightly slower rate. Rather than attempting to subvert the sequester, Congress should be proposing additional cuts to discretionary spending and considering meaningful reform to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare, which pose tremendous threats to our fiscal stability.
Every Halloween children and adults alike get their fair share of tricks and treats. The government doesn’t wait until the end of October to shower taxpayers with tricks or treats; it shares these treats or tricks all year long. Let’s take a closer look at some of the tricks and treats from this past year. This year’s tricks include: non-profit environmental organizations receiving tax dollars, The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), government funded broadband, and a tax increase proposed by the World Health Organization. Treats include: the selling of wireless spectrum, The Department of Treasury trying to recoup money from a failed energy company, and the passage of enhanced whistleblower protection in the House of Representatives. These are not the only tricks or treats by the government, but the folks at TPA were concerned that if we showed you too many tricks you may not be able to sleep at night, and it was really difficult finding many treats with a debt of $16 trillion and a Congress (especially the Senate) that refuses to cut spending.
Don’t believe what they tell you, there is a way to reduce government spending that doesn’t involve raising taxes or making difficult choices about what programs to cut. A great way to reduce the amount that the government spends simply involves using the money in both a wise and careful manner which is something our government appears to have forgotten for quite a long time. As with most things, when people work smarter, rather than harder we all stand to benefit. The same can be said for the way government should work in order to produce the most efficient, helpful results. A recently introduced campaign, “Cut the Deficit,” launched by Rosslyn Analytics, is one way to ensure government uses its resources, your tax dollars, in the most effective, cost-saving way possible. With its “Cut the Deficit” campaign, Rosslyn Analytics will educate taxpayers and public sector employees about ways to better manage taxpayer dollars and deliver savings. The prospect of saving $100 billion by improving public sector procurement practices is a prospect that should cause all elected officials to perk up. “Public sector procurement is the biggest lever that the government - federal, state and local - has to deliver cash savings, support job creation and reaffirm the US’ global economic leadership," said Colin Cram, the author of the report. In fact according to the non-partisan group, the United States could create more than 2.2 million jobs by improving the way the federal government, states and cities manage the country’s $2 trillion annual public procurement spending.
Tomorrow (June 5), California voters will get a chance to vote “yes” or “no” on Proposition 29. If the proposition passes, California’s tobacco tax will increase by $1.00 per pack, making the total tax $1.87 per pack. The additional revenue is supposed to be used for cancer research, smoking reduction programs, and tobacco law enforcement. Prop 29 might be enticing to vote for but the reality is that this is a fiscal ruse on Californians. Funds raised by Prop 29 won’t have to be spent in state and now there is information that previously collected tobacco money wasn’t spent wisely and if passed, consumers and taxpayers are locked into a 15-year mistake. According to a May 29, 2012 article in the Anchorage Daily News “Between 1998 and 2010, just 6 percent of the money collected from a massive lawsuit settlement and from cigarette taxes went to tobacco interdiction and education programs, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week, far below federal spending guidelines for effectively curbing tobacco use.” In addition, according to Cal Watchdog, “And, Prop 29 was written to remain in place for 15 years, without the possibility of changes–not even by voters. “ Californians can’t afford to make a 15-year mistake.
Elected officials at the state and federal level have two choices to balance budgets, spending cuts and/or tax increases. Maryland is no different as it faces a $1 billion debt and debates next year’s budget. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has talked about a number of tax increases to cover the shortfall including gas, tobacco, and alcohol. It is irresponsible for any state legislator or Governor to advocate for any tax increases. The only responsible way to balance any budget is through spending cuts. Tax increases excuse and encourage continued irresponsible spending by the state and weaken an already frail economy. Even state officials agree with avoiding tax increases. According to WMAL “Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot tells WMAL.com that the legislature's ‘focus [is on] on the state budget. They're not focused on the Maryland economy. The Maryland economy is in a very weak form of recovery.’ Franchot says to raise taxes now would damage the state's economic recovery. ‘My advice as chief fiscal officer is for them to not raise taxes. We're spending too much. We're taxing too much. We're borrowing too much. My goodness, we're almost over whatever maximum limits we had on borrowing,’ he said.”
The republicans in the House of Representatives and the White House have been playing a game of budgetary poker for the past two years and taxpayers have been paying the price. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) fiscal year (FY) 2013 budget was the next card played in this high stakes game. In FY 2012, Rep. Ryan showed his cards and went all in with spending cuts. This year Rep. Ryan continues his aggressive stance as he doubles down on tax cuts. All the meanwhile, the Senate has folded by not proposing a budget for more than 1,000 days. And, according to The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid doesn’t even seem bothered by their lack of work. “Senate Democratic leaders on Friday said they do not intend to bring a fiscal 2013 budget up for a floor vote. ‘We do not need to bring a budget to the floor this year — it's done, we don't need to do it,’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters on Friday.” Rep. Ryan addresses both spending and taxes as he ups the ante on America’s fiscal future.