From the satirical Golden Fleece Awards bestowed by the late Sen. William Proxmire to the legendary $640 toilet seat purchased by the Pentagon (and the more recent request for federal funding of a cowboy poetry festival), Americans are no strangers to wasteful government spending. There is no shortage of examples of goofy programs politicians want to pay for with tax dollars. Government-funded research is one large area of questionable spending. When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) uncovered that taxpayers paid $593,000 to research why chimps like to throw their poop, some folks may have laughed. But the tens of millions of dollars being spent for similarly specious research into the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is no laughing matter.
When the 112th Congress took over in January, 2011, there was quite a bit of excitement and anticipation that the newly elected members (including dozens of tea party members) would be aggressive in demanding real spending cuts and accountability. With a near-miss government shutdown in April, a debt ceiling scare in August and the failure of the super committee in November, last year was filled with missed opportunities to institute real spending cuts. With the federal debt eclipsing $15 trillion in 2011, Congress has quite a bit of work to do in 2012. In addition to the annual budget fiascos that are typical of Washington, D.C., there are seven key areas (Agriculture, Defense, Energy, the Food and Drug Administration/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Tax Reform, Telecommunications/Technology, and Transportation) that will determine if Congress and the President are serious about bringing spending under control and having a more efficient government.
This Trick or Treat highlights Healthcare and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without a doubt, the biggest trick played on taxpayers was the passage of Obamacare. As part of Obamacare, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of 15 “experts” to slow the growth of Medicare, was passed. IPAB will be a board of 15 unelected members who, according to the American Medical Association, would “extend Medicare solvency and reduce spending growth through the use of a spending target system and fast-track legislative approval process.” In reality, IPAB will be nothing more than a way to ration health care for seniors. Even though the FDA is “responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation,’ the FDA is quickly becoming the silent killer of the economy and the free market. WARNING!! We repeat, we advise strong parental guidance because some material may not be suitable for children since they are the ones that will ultimately be paying for these tricks.
From having the power to initiate food recalls to approving new drugs, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is quickly becoming one of the most powerful government bureaucracies. In fact, according to FDA budget documents, “The fiscal year (FY) 2012 President’s Budget request for FDA is $4,360,281,000. This represents a total program level increase of $1,076,215,000 above the amount enacted into law for FY 2010.” The FDA has also played an increasing role in squeezing the tobacco industry. The FDA has required that cigarettes contain health warnings on cigarettes since the 1960’s. It now appears that the FDA may have over played that hand with their crusade to “up their game” and put graphic images on cigarette packages to enhance the warning labels. According to a September 21, 2011 Associated Press article, “ A federal judge peppered a government lawyer with questions Wednesday expressing doubts about whether the Food and Drug Administration can force tobacco companies to post graphic images on their cigarette packages showing the health effects of smoking. In a two-hour hearing, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon closely questioned Justice Department lawyer Mark Stern on whether the nine graphic images proposed by the FDA convey just the facts about the health risks of smoking or go beyond that into advocacy - a critical distinction in a case over free speech.”
The federal government is obsessed with controlling behavior, and despite President Obama’s call to repeal regulations with a projected cost of more than $1 billion, the federal government is also obsessed with regulating businesses, large and small. One program that symbolized the obsession with controlling behavior was the creation and the expansion of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program funded by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (see previous blog post). Now, as part of an all-out assault on one industry through regulation, the federal government has its sights on new smokeless tobacco products. Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms and most are probably most familiar with chewing tobacco or snuff. But there are two new forms of smokeless tobacco that show quite a bit of promise for smoking cessation, e-cigarettes and nicotine lozenges.