As the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) continues to follow developments on the Farm Bill, including the bill clearing the Senate Agriculture Committee yesterday, TPA President David Williams sent a letter to the House Agriculture Committee yesterday in response to a proposed amendment weakening oversight of the wasteful Rural Utilities Service Broadband Loan Program. The letter outlines opposition to the program and calls on the committee to reject an amendment offered by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) further providing taxpayer funding to a program rife with problems. When it comes to wise use of taxpayer dollars, RUS has a troubled history. RUS's primary goal is to provide loans to help bring Internet broadband service to unserved rural communities, which are generally defined as communities with populations of less than 20,000. In a March, 2009 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) observed that while the 2008 Farm Bill modified the broadband program and narrowed the definition of "rural area," the RUS continued to issue loans in exurban and suburban areas. Also, according to a report by the USDA on April 23, 2012, "We found that RUS had not maintained its focus on rural communities most in need of Federal assistance. This is largely because its definition of 'rural area,' although within the statutory guidelines, was too broad to distinguish between suburban and rural communities. As a result, RUS issued over $103.4 million in loans to 64 communities near large cities." TPA will continue to monitor this and other provisions in the Farm Bill.
To see the full letter, click read more below
Led by Heritage Action For America, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance joined with other taxpayers and free-market organizations representing millions of individuals across the nation to oppose wasteful spending in the Farm Bill. The Senate and House appear ready to start legislative work on the Farm Bill as early as this week, and it is important to call attention to the habitual waste of money that has become too commonplace in the Farm Bill. There is tremendous need for reform. Current subsidy programs are rooted in the 1930s, when prices for crops and livestock bottomed out and farm families were desperate for income. Agriculture today could not be more different. Farmers are pulling in record-high levels of income and carrying record-low levels of debt. Technology has eliminated many of the risks that once plagued farming, and the profitability of crops that go without subsidies demonstrates that independent agriculture is viable. So there is just no way to justify funneling tens of billions of dollars to farmers who, by and large, are better off than most of the taxpayers who are shelling out the subsidies. The letter highlights twelve of the most egregious examples of waste to taxpayers. The groups are urging both Chambers of Congress to not continue to spend trillions of dollars on what amounts to simply a laundry list of “subsidies, welfare payments, and environmental patronage.”
(The following op-ed first appeared in Roll Call on May 7, 2013) The Environmental Protection Agency is always looking for ways to expand its power and scope. That’s not exactly news in Washington and not dissimilar to most federal bureaucracies. But unlike many other agencies, the EPA has figured out a way to completely eschew government transparency and circumvent the traditional regulatory process in a way that needlessly spends more taxpayer dollars. This unconventional tactic, known as “sue and settle,” works when the EPA and a like-minded group, such as the Environmental Working Group, coordinate a lawsuit between each other where there is no aggrieved party. The court then quickly adopts a pre-arranged settlement. In addition to undermining the adversarial litigation process, that settlement paves the way for new regulations that are favored by the environmental groups and the EPA — such as tougher emission standards for fossil fuels.
For once Washington takes a step in the right direction, but keep your excitement reserved. Much remains to be seen about just how far House Speaker John Boehner’s efforts to reform our tax code will actually go but credit should be given to Speaker Boehner who took the first step towards making this happen when he announced that “he will push major reform of the tax code by reserving pole position — H.R. 1 — for that massive legislative undertaking. Again, don’t get too excited or think the battle is over yet. The troops haven’t even gotten on the ground yet. The Hill article reminds us of a very important fact: “Designating tax reform as H.R. 1 far from ensures that it will become law this year, or even that it will make its way through the House.” While this is certainly true, this reality calls all pro-taxpayer groups to join together and keep Boehner to his promise. There’s much to undertake when it comes to crafting a good, extensive restructuring of our current, disastrous, burdensome tax code, but the fact is you can’t begin to have a conversation until the subject is at the very least on the table. And that’s what Speaker Boehner has done. Now let’s just hope this symbolic gesture moves beyond a sheet of paper and prompts action on a significant under-hauling of our nation’s tax code. In an attempt to encourage Congressional action on this issue, Taxpayers Protection Alliance suggests that one area of tax reform that should get particular attention is corporate tax reform.
As many people may know by now, the House of Representatives passed the Senate version of the fiscal cliff bill with the vote occurring just before midnight on January 1, 2013. There were no changes to the Senate-passed bill so the same tax increases and spending increases were passed. Let’s take a short trip down memory lane. 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 cut 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 [a revised Congressional Budget Office estimate pegs the number at $25 billion] while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts.” 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 $63.5 billion (if no more spending cuts are approved and the sequestration is avoided).
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).