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Government Spending



All Reason.com articles with the "Government Spending" tag.



Published: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2018 23:25:48 -0400

 



Bernie Sanders Has a Jobs Plan. It's Called 'Socialism.'

Tue, 24 Apr 2018 13:05:00 -0400

Hey, there, displaced factory worker! Looking for work? Bernie Sanders has a job for you. How would you like to make $15 an hour cleaning up park trails for your municipal government? What, you say that sounds like something an employee of the city's parks department already does, or is supposed to do? What about repainting school playgrounds? Oh, the unionized school district employees gave you a stern look? Um. Hang on, he'll get back to you. Sanders has announced a new plan to make sure everybody who is unemployed gets a job. His plan is just to invent a bunch of new government jobs and pay $15 an hour with benefits! Ta-Da! Problem solved. No, really. That's kind of the plan. According to The Washington Post, which reported the proposal yesterday, Sanders' office doesn't have a cost estimate or any idea how it will be funded yet. Post policy writer Jeff Stein turned to a study by a pack of "left-leaning economists" for the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, who seem to think only good things will happen with the creation of millions of government-funded jobs, and hardly any bad things. Klein notes: Job guarantee advocates say their plan would drive up wages by significantly increasing competition for workers, ensuring that corporations have to offer more generous salaries and benefits if they want to keep their employees from working for the government. Of course, they might have to lay off some employees in order to pay for these increased wages and benefits. Or they could increase the speed by which they're automating to get rid of jobs to save money. But that's okay! There's going to be all these government jobs to replace them! Paid for with tax revenue from…from…wait. If everybody goes to work for the government, where will the revenue come from? I'm sure they'll figure out something. So what sort of government work is there that would provide $15 an hour plus benefits to millions of unemployed Americans? The Levy Economics Institute study provides several examples of how these guaranteed jobs might play out at the local level. Here's one: A local artist collective employs painters, actors, musicians, and stage hands to run year-round productions for the community. They organize school outreach programs, run summer camps, and offer free art, music, and literacy classes for disadvantaged/special needs youths. They collaborate with local schools in offering art enrichment programs. You might think to yourself, "These seem like the kinds of jobs that certain people with certain types of interests have been begging for the government to fund for years." Indeed, much of the examples in the Levy study seem like descriptions of programs that certain types of local government-connected people with very particular ideas would like to see the government doing. Their plan leans heavily on the assumption that all these unemployed or underemployed people would happily do the grunt work that aligns with left-leaning environmental and public policy project goals. The report openly uses the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal as a model to support it. Perhaps you're wondering, "Is there even any widespread demand for these kinds of jobs that aren't already being filled?" That may sound like some sort of reference to marketplace capitalism! But that's not the point! The point is jobs. The study declares: It separates the offer of employment from the profitability of employment. Projects are created to serve community needs, rather than prioritizing whether the projects are deemed profitable in the narrow sense. But how does one determine what a community needs while ignoring market responses? Why should taxpayers fund community plays if they have no interest in actually sitting through them? This report makes it very clear that the task falls to local public institutions and job centers, not market demands. That necessarily means it will be driven, much like this report is, by the interests of the people who are in charge of the programs or have the most influence over the programs. That these programs [...]



Are Trillion-Dollar Deficits the New Norm?

Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:01:00 -0400

Trillion-dollar deficits are coming back faster than originally projected. Though it's fair to complain about the impact of the recently enacted tax cuts on our red ink, the ultimate culprits for our upcoming debt crisis are lawmakers who continually refuse to reform entitlement programs. Consider the numbers. According to the Congressional Budget Office's newly released report titled "The Budget and Economic Outlook: 2018 to 2028," the U.S. deficit will reach $1 trillion by next year. That's three years sooner than projected last year. This year's deficit projection was also revised, increased to $804 billion, or about $300 billion more than projected last year. By 2028, the deficit will be north of $1.5 trillion. Ouch. These amounts are quite large by historical standards. Between 2022 and 2025, deficits as a share of gross domestic product will be 5.1 percent. As CBO notes, "that percentage has been exceeded in only five years since 1946." For perspective, the authors add, "four of those years followed the deep 2007-2009 recession." That's why these statistics should be utterly shocking; we're not in a recession. In stark contrast, the CBO projects very healthy growth numbers. Yet federal spending is projected to exceed 23 percent of GDP by 2028. It has historically fluctuated around 20 percent of GDP. Revenues will fall slightly as a share of GDP following the 2017 tax cuts, before recovering to their historical average by 2025 and exceeding historical averages thereafter. In other words, we have a spending problem first and foremost. Deficits are now the norm, and the level of federal debt held by the public will continue to mount as the interest on that debt consumes ever-larger amounts of the federal budget. Based on current trends, the debt held by the public is set to reach $15.7 trillion by the end of this year and continue rising to $28.7 trillion by 2028. Also far ahead of schedule, our debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to reach 100 percent by 2028. This level of projected debt is the highest since World War II. There are real consequences to this mounting debt. First, unless lawmakers control their spending addiction, the United States will have less flexibility to pump up the economy during a downturn or an emergency. Second, as a new study by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas finds, a rising public debt-to-GDP ratio harms economic growth. The study looks at a panel of 40 advanced and emerging economies and four decades of data. The economists find that "a persistent accumulation of public debt over long periods is associated with a lower level of economic activity." In other words, more debt means lower growth and ultimately fewer employment opportunities for future generations. That's because the debt has a negative impact on private-sector investment, productivity, wages, and interest rates. This nasty combo comes with a side of higher taxes, of course. Most people agree that it's time to act. How to act, however, is still a source of disagreement. Take a recent op-ed in The Washington Post by renowned liberal economists Martin Neil Baily, Jason Furman, Alan Krueger, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, and Janet Yellen. They argue that the country is indeed heading toward a debt crisis and that it's mostly because of the recent tax reform. Not surprisingly, they recommend jacking up taxes to address this problem. Anyone who has looked at a CBO document in the past 20 years should know how bizarre that conclusion is. The Manhattan Institute's Brian Riedl has issued a data-driven and informed rebuttal, in which he demonstrates that the coming debt crisis is overwhelmingly and undeniably the result of the coming Social Security and Medicare deficits. He writes, "CBO's Long-Term Budget Outlook shows that between 2017 and 2047, Social Security and Medicare will run a cash deficit of $82 trillion." He adds, "The rise in Social Security, Medicare, and resulting interest costs from 8.1 percent to 16.4 percent of GDP between 2017 and 2047 determines nearly the entire rise in budget defici[...]



Trillion-Dollar Deficits Are Back and Here to Stay

Mon, 09 Apr 2018 11:06:00 -0400

Budget-watchers have been predicting the return of trillion-dollar deficits for months. That forecast will likely become offical—or as official as these things can ever be—later this week, when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its annual outlook for revenue and spending. The 2018 Budget and Economic Outlook will be the CBO's first major assessment of the federal government's fiscal trajectory since December's sweeping tax bill and February's two-year budget deal, which shattered spending caps and boosted federal outlays by more than $400 billion. Either of those developments would have been likely to increase future deficits, but together they'll be like adding cocaine to your morning coffee. Even under the sunniest set of assumptions, the tax bill will add between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade; the spending plan tacked on another $320 billion. That means trillion-dollar deficits are the "new normal," says Stan Collender, author of The Guide to the Federal Budget, in a new column at Forbes. It fact, the deficit is likely to push well above the $1 trillion in future years. Because the CBO can only make projections based on current law, its outlook will include the phase-out of some tax cuts in the middle of the next decade. That means the CBO will be forecasting higher revenue levels near the end of its 10-year forecast, even though it's politically unlikely that those phaseouts will be allowed to occur, Collender explains. For much of the same reason, other independent analysts, such as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, are already saying the deficit could push toward (or even past) the $2 trillion threshold by the end of the 2020s. President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are likely to use a well-worn page of their playbook to remind everyone that trillion-dollar deficits happened under Barack Obama too. This is true, of course, but there key differences between the years 2008–2012 and today. Those four years of trillion-dollar deficits happened during and immediately after the so-called Great Recession, which cratered tax revenues and saw increased government spending on a variety of mostly ill-conceived and generally wasteful efforts to stimulate the economy or bail out certain industries. Today, unemployment is less than 4 percent and the economy has been humming along with hardly a hiccup for several consecutive years. Government coffers should be full to the brim, or at least they shouldn't be running dry. It's also true that the White House's official budget projects a mere $363 billion deficit in 2028. But getting to that level requires Congress to enact more than $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade—something that seems well beyond the realm of fantasy and nearing the border of complete political impossibility. While some members of Congress care about reducing deficits, it is now clear that the Republican majority in both chambers and the Republican in the White House have little interest in being responsible stewards of the federal purse. And the Democrats aren't exactly offering a fiscally responsible alternative. Keep in mind that all these projections include the underlying assumption that the economy will continue to grow for the next decade. What happens if there's another recession? "If the economic outlook doesn't turn out to be as rosy as the White House is promising, the very high Trump era federal budget deficits will be even higher," says Collender. Within a few years, we might be wishing for the return of merely trillion-dollar deficits.[...]



My new "The Hill" Op Ed on Federalism and the Legal Battle Over Sanctuary Cities

Sun, 08 Apr 2018 10:15:00 -0400

The Hill recently published my new op ed on federalism and the legal battles between the Trump and administration and various sanctuary jurisdictions. Here is an excerpt: Over the last year, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have waged an ongoing series of legal battles against "sanctuary" jurisdictions — cities... and states that refuse to aid federal government efforts to deport undocumented immigrants.... If the administration prevails, it will be a major blow to state and local autonomy in our constitutional system. Both left and right have good reason to fear such an outcome.... Only Congress has the power to spend money or impose conditions on federal grants to states. And Congress never passed any laws mandating that recipients of grants must meet the conditions Trump and Sessions seek to impose. That's why the executive order and the Sessions policy have suffered a series of embarrassing defeats in federal court at the hands of both Republican and Democratic judges. If the administration wins these cases on appeal, it will set a dangerous precedent going far beyond the specific issue of sanctuary cities. If the president can unilaterally add new conditions to one federal grant program, he can do the same with others. Since there is a vast array of federal grants, that would give the executive a massive club to coerce states and localities on a wide range of issues.... The sanctuary cases represent a political role reversal: Liberal sanctuary jurisdictions are relying on federalism arguments traditionally associated with conservatives. Right-wing defenders of the administration are arguing for sweeping notions of federal power, including by relying on a broad interpretation of Arizona v. United States, a ruling conservatives condemned at the time it came down. Yet in a deeply divided nation, both left and right have much to gain from imposing tighter limits on federal power and allowing diversity to flourish at the state and local levels. [...]



Remy Shows Cardi B Where Her Taxes Go

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 11:50:00 -0400

After Cardi B launched an anti-taxation tirade against Uncle Sam on Instagram, Remy took on the challenge of explaining what's happening with all her money.

'Bodak Yellow' parody written and performed by Remy.

Shot and edited by Austin and Meredith Bragg.


Mastered by Ben Karlstrom. Beat by JEOnTheButtons.
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LYRICS:

Thirty grand for a table
where Ben Carson loves to eat
640 dollars for the
Louboutin of toilet seats

So many whips you'd think
you were watching Fifty Shades of Grey
Plus the seven billion every year
we send to TSA

I don't dance no
I make tummies move
See I don't gotta dance
I make tummies move

800 thousand for the homeless
Not the homeless–monkey drool
Plus 80 million for a hotel
but that hotel is in Kabul

You say you
wanna know where it go?
Let's find out and see
Cardi B

Billion dollars gone
Don't know where it be
It in the club?
That's what happens when you
give to D.C. spenders
As much a chance of getting paid back
as Evan McMullin's vendors

Forty grand for an app
that shows an arrow every time
Ain't seen an app so overvalued
since that time I purchased Vine

Plus billions more that we give
To folks we deem are really smart
For a pyramid that tells you
"Don't forget to eat your carbs!"

Grope your pants and
take your money too
Grope your pants and
take your money too

The tax code is the worst thing scribbled
since Ben Affleck's back tattoo




Brickbat: Who Ordered the Satellite?

Wed, 28 Mar 2018 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The spending bill signed by President Donald Trump last week includes $600 million in the Air Force budget for two satellites the service did not ask for. Lawmakers say they just want to make sure the Air Force will be able to replace any satellites in that system if it needs to.




Rep. Thomas Massie: 'Anybody That Voted for the Omnibus Committed an Appalling Act'

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 15:15:00 -0400

Rep. Thomas Massie thinks the congressional leadership has turned America into a banana republic. In a long, aggrieved interview with Conservative Review, the libertarian-leaning Kentucky Republican stresses the absurdity of requiring representatives to vote on something they had no chance of understanding. Massie insists he learned more about the mess of a spending bill from reporters' tweets than from the party leadership. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), he notes, straight-up refused to answer specific questions from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) about elements of the omnibus. This disempowerment is deliberate and explicit, Massie says: before we vote on every bill in the House, there's an early procedural vote that precedes the vote on the bill. It's called "the rule vote." Now it's ironic they call it "the rule vote." What the rule vote does is it suspends our rights as members that are preserved in the rule book that we have—Jefferson's manual, if you will. The rule vote says, "We're going to limit debate, we're going to limit amendments, we're going to do this to you, we're going to do that to you, we're going to suspend all points of order that you could otherwise make." And it just shocks me that most of my Republican colleagues will vote to subvert their own power by voting for that rule vote.... [A]s soon as you're sworn in to Congress, they take you over to the corner and say, "Listen. There's one rule here. Never vote against the rule that comes out of the Rules Committee." And of course, they will try to take away [National Republican Congressional Committee] funding for your race, if you have a close race. In fact, after this rule vote happened, you could see our leadership with a print-out of the 25 Republican members who dared to vote to have some say in this bill. And they were scouring it, they were sitting over there at the leadership table just going through the list. I'm sure they have lots of nasty stuff planned for us. Massie finds it interesting that many members felt free to vote for an omnibus that violates various GOP promises after the deadline for possible primary challenges has passed. He thinks the bill will likely function as, quoting an unnamed colleague, "the GOP voter suppression act of 2018." "It's going to depress enthusiasm" of any small-government minded Republicans out there, Massie says, adding that "my enthusiasm is diminished for supporting my colleagues who come back and vote for this kind of crap." Massie notes with pride that he never voted for Ryan for leadership, and he says people should "start paying attention to how their congressmen voted on these procedural votes." He knew all along, Massie insists, that Ryan was lying when he promised to be more punctilious about letting congressmen understand what they had to vote on. That doesn't mean you can fix the problem just by booting Ryan. "The speaker of the House does what he does, not just because people allow him to do it, the rank and file members, they literally vote every week to be abused by the rules," Massie laments. "It's like Stockholm syndrome. So, you could change the speaker, and he may not run again. But until you have congressmen who don't just blindly hand the leadership their voting card on every rule vote, you're not going to get any changes. It doesn't matter who the speaker is." "Anybody that voted for the omnibus committed an appalling act," Massie says. And when it comes to a Republican-controlled federal government, "Absolutely nothing good will happen between now and the election. And the most that you can hope for is that nothing will happen."[...]



Trump Wants a 'Line-Item Veto' on Budget Bills. That Was Ruled Unconstitutional 20 Years Ago.

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 15:40:00 -0400

(image) Well, it's done. After his will-I-or-won't-I-sign-this antics this morning, President Donald Trump has signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed the House of Representatives last night.

But Trump being Trump, he wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to air his many grievances with Congress, Frank Costanza–style. And he's got a lot of problems with you people.

Among the president's laundry list of complaints was that the bill contains too many random and unnecessary expenses. He's absolutely right, though the gripe rings awfully hollow coming from the one man on earth who was actually in a position to stop the budget from becoming law.

Trump's solution, unsurprisingly, was to give more power to Trump. Congress, he said, should pass a law granting the president a "line-item veto" over budget bills—that is, the power to strike out individual appropriations rather than having to choose between accepting or rejecting the bill wholesale.

A bold, innovative idea for streamlining American governance? Not exactly.

Way back in 1996, a Republican* Congress tried to do just that, passing the Line Item Veto Act in the hopes of giving then-President Bill Clinton the power to excise specific appropriations from the federal budget.

The act passed, but it didn't last long. In 1997, the City of New York and a number of health care companies who had lost funding to one of Clinton's line-item vetoes sued, arguing that the law impermissibly blurred the Constitution's separation of the legislative and executive functions of government. The Supreme Court agreed, holding in 1998's Clinton v. City of New York that the line-item veto violated the Presentment Clause, which is the portion of the Constitution which lays out the veto process. In essence, the Court said, Congress cannot delegate its constitutional power to craft and modify legislation to the executive.

Clinton v. New York isn't as universally known as Roe v. Wade or Brown v. Board of Education, but it isn't exactly obscure. It's a landmark case in U.S. constitutional law, a cornerstone of the "nondelegation doctrine" that underpins many past and ongoing debates about the structure of American government. If you went to high school after 1998, you've probably at least heard of it once.

If so, congratulations. You're apparently better informed on the structure of the U.S. government than the president.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the 1996 Congress was majority Democrat.




Your Friday Cliffhanger: Will Trump Sign or Veto the Omnibus? (UPDATE: Trump Signs)

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 11:25:00 -0400

What a difference 48 hours makes. Here's President Donald Trump on Wednesday, tweeting about the $1.3 trillion ominbus spending deal: Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming. Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year...most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018 Between then and now, after announcing John Bolton will be his new national security advisor and also insisting he could take former Vice President Joe Biden in a fight (Biden started it, Mom!), he seems to have changed his tune: I am considering a VETO of the Omnibus Spending Bill based on the fact that the 800,000 plus DACA recipients have been totally abandoned by the Democrats (not even mentioned in Bill) and the BORDER WALL, which is desperately needed for our National Defense, is not fully funded. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2018 The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been jeopardized because Trump insists on trying to use it as leverage to fund the border wall and push through other anti-immigration policies. Wednesday's tweet seemed like an acknowledgment from Trump that he wasn't going to get everything he wanted all at once. The border wall's initial funding reminds me of the high-speed rail construction in California. They only have a tiny portion of what they need to build the unnecessary boondoggle, but they figure once it gets started they'll get more money. Those fiscally responsible conservatives of the House Freedom Caucus sent a letter to Trump asking him to veto the $1.3 trillion spending bill. Oh, wait—scratch "fiscally responsible." They want him to veto the omnibus because it doesn't provide enough money to build the wall: Members of the @freedomcaucus sent the below letter to the WH: "Mr. President, we urge you to remember the countless forgotten men and women of America who placed their faith in you to change business as usual in Washington, D.C. We urge you to join us and reject this omnibus." pic.twitter.com/eO0B1PfCYl — Mark Meadows (@RepMarkMeadows) March 22, 2018 Congress recessed with the assumption that Trump would sign the bill, The Wall Street Journal notes. If he vetoes the legislation, the federal government will run out of funding at midnight. There are much better reasons to veto the omnibus than the terrible border wall (which will not work). Eric Boehm noted yesterday all the ridiculous spending in the bill. I also noted legislation embedded deep into the spending bill that would weaken citizens' data privacy and potentially subject them to more secret government surveillance, and not just from the American government. Those concerns do not seem to be playing in the president's mind. Stay tuned. UPDATE: At a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Trump announced he was signing the bill, but he's not happy about it. He insisted that the spending was necessary to "rebuild" a "depleted military." He said he would not sign omnibus bills like this in the future. He also called on the Senate to get rid of filibuster rules so bills could move forward with a simple majority. He also called on Congress to give him the authority of a line-item veto.[...]



Cardi B, Your New Libertarian Hero, Asks: 'Uncle Sam, I Want to Know What You Doing With My Fucking Tax Money!'

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 10:20:00 -0400

Cardi B, a rapper and Instagram celebrity best known for her hit "Bodak Yellow," posted a video on Instagram yesterday where she asks some hard questions about effective tax rates and government spending.

B notes that she is paying a 40 percent tax rate and not getting much for it. She asks for accountability, noting that "when you donate to a kid from a foreign country, they give you updates of what they doing with your donation."

By contrast, B has no idea what Uncle Sam is doing with her "fucking tax money." She speculates about possible uses for government revenues, but points out that "y'all not spending it in no damn prison," because incarcerated African-American men only receive "like two underwears, one jumpsuit for like five months." B wants transparency, demanding "receipts."

The video has been viewed over 4 million times since it was posted late last night.

In her work, B has talked about her experience as an entrepreneur, explaining that after her initial success, "I don't gotta dance, I make money moves."




Rand Paul Reads the Omnibus Spending Bill (Because Someone Has To)

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 19:00:00 -0400

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who might be thinking of holding up the Senate's vote on the insane and mysterious omnibus spending bill, is publicly conducting some basic due diligence for a legislator: demonstrating that, unlike pretty much all his colleagues in House or Senate, he's actually trying to read the monstrous thing before voting. (Paul notes it took over two hours for his office printer to even print the thing.) He's giving the American people some insights, good and bad, in real time via his twitter feed. Some highlights: Page 226 of terrible, no good, rotten deficit spending bill. I found a kernel of hope: "no funds in this act will be used to support or justify torture." — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 Good news on the state-level marijuana rights front: Page 240 good news for states rights: no funds will be spent to prevent any state's medical marijuana initiatives. Thank you Congr. Rohrbacher — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 Some things Paul wonders if require this level of public (i.e. you and me) funding: Here are a few more highlights: o $1m for the Cultural Antiquities Task Force o $6.25m for the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation o $20m for Countering Foreign State Propaganda o $12m for Countering State Disinformation and Pressure — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 And more of that: o $1m for the World Meteorological Organization o $218m for Promoting Democracy Development in Europe (yep..the birthplace of democracy needs promoting) o $25m for International Religious Freedom o $10m for disadvantaged Egyptian Students — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 Encouraging FISA news: on page 355. NSA prohibited from targeting US persons with FISA 702 program. sounds good —but — privacy advocates fear that NSA still does back-door targeting of US persons. Courageous Senator Wyden has asked how many US persons caught up in supposedly foreign data base. — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 Paul wonders about the integrity of the often-ignored War Powers Act: Page 348 of terrible, rotten, no-good budget busting bill, a nugget that I wish we obeyed sec. 8103: none of the funds may be used in contravention of the War Powers Act — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 And sheds light on our foreign policy apparatus' weird definition of "permanent": eyes getting tired but really someone should read this beast. Page 392 sec 9007: no $ shall be spent "for the permanent stationing of US forces in Afghanistan" Wonder what they meant by permanent? Some might argue that after 16 years we approaching the definition of permanent. — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 Insight into how revenue no matter how high never seems to make overall debt shrink: Page 430 of "crumni-bus:" Good news. The government is going to "earn" $350 million by selling oil from Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Bad news is the $ won't go to reduce the $21 trillion debt. The $ will be instead be spent elsewhere by the Federal government. — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2018 Paul is continuing to put himself through this hell for the American people in real time on his twitter feed. Reason's Eric Boehm also knows more about the omnibus than your average congress member.[...]



The Omnibus Spending Bill Is a Fiscal Embarrassment

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 00:15:00 -0400

Republicans are once again proving why they actually deserve the label of the biggest swamp spenders. The latest gigantic omnibus spending bill would fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year—with a price tag of $1.3 trillion. That doesn't include entitlement funding or payments for the interest on our debt—which continue to grow and drive our debt higher, as Republicans have apparently given up on slowing down spending. Most Republicans favor the bill as a way to avoid the self-inflicted risk of another government shutdown. Never mind that members have had no time to read the 1,000-page bill and figure out what is actually in it. They just have to take Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's word. He said, "It has some things no one likes, and it has a lot of things not everybody likes but most people like. It was a fair compromise." Schumer's uncharacteristic cheerfulness about the measure probably had much to do with the $900 million in funding for the Gateway tunnel project, a boondoggle supported by all New York-area lawmakers. It most likely won't be in the final bill, though, because President Donald Trump threatened to veto the bill if the project were to be included. Immigration is another sticky point, but we can all expect it to be resolved at some point by nudging the right people for their support. You can also expect Republicans and President Trump to spin this as a "yuge" victory for their team. After all, isn't it a sign that they can govern? Sure, if you tolerate massive deficit spending, being irresponsible, and pushing all that liability down the throat of future generations. I don't, because I actually care about the well-being of my kids and grandkids. To be fair, this is no surprise. These are the same guys who agreed back in February to add $300 billion of spending over two years to the already monstrous federal tab. Showing yet again that bipartisanship isn't good news for those of us who care about the fiscal path our country is on, the agreement blew the budget caps that were meant to control excess spending by opportunistic politicians. Democrats are, of course, loving it. Let's face it; they know that when Republicans are in power, they can act like a drunken teenager with Daddy's credit card, but they sober up when they have the gavel. What's worse, Republicans are terrible negotiators. For example, Democrats have once again managed to get most of their non-defense priorities funded by the Republican-controlled Congress and White House in exchange for allowing more defense spending. The result is a $143 billion boost to this year's spending above budget caps. Who cares about budget rules and deficits when you can throw more cash at the Department of Defense? This will, of course, lead to much larger deficits than originally projected. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, red ink for 2018 will reach $800 billion. That's a solid $230 billion higher than what was projected by the Congressional Budget Office in its June 2017 10-year forecast. That's a whole $2 trillion in additional debt after just one year of Republican control of the legislative and executive branches. Larger deficits also mean larger interest payments. A CRFB analysis found that "interest payments will quadruple, topping $1 trillion per year in as little as a decade. That's more than we will spend each year on the military or Medicaid, and as a share of the economy, it is the highest in history. ... Over the next decade, we'll spend around $7 trillion—$55,000 per household—just servicing our debt." The economy is growing. The scale of the Afghanistan War is relatively small—and even some defense hawks recognize that there's enough waste and unnecessary spending already in the military[...]



The Federal Government's TIGER Program Splurges on Sidewalks in Rural Florida and Recreational Boat Ramps in Iowa

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 09:45:00 -0400

A bipartisan desire to do something big with infrastructure has set off a clash of visions in Washington. The Trump administration has suggested, in both its budget and its infrastructure proposals, a relatively decentralist approach that would shift some of the financial burden onto states, localities, and private actors, though it would also provide $200 billion in new federal spending. Democrats have countered with demands to preserve and expand the feds' role in infrastructure, demanding anywhere from $1 trillion to $2 trillion in new spending. Caught in the crosshairs is the Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, which this past Friday announced $500 million in new grants. The Trump administration has called for killing the program. The Democrats have argued for spending an additional $10 billion on it. As the name might suggest, TIGER got its start as a part of President Barack Obama's stimulus program. But as the recession faded, TIGER stood firm, spending $5.6 billion in nine round of grants since 2009 on everything from street cars in Portland to streetscaping in Los Angeles. This year's portfolio of grant awards demonstrates how divorced the program has become from anything of relevance to federal taxpayers. Among the recipients is the city of Akron, Ohio, which received $8 million to install bike lanes, pedestrian infrastructure, bus shelter enhancements, and traffic calming devices along a 1,700-foot stretch of Main Street. Akron had previously received $5 million in 2016 to do the same thing on a different segment of the same street. Another lucky winner is Collier County, Florida, which received a $13 million grant for new sidewalks, bike lanes, and landscaping in the 24,000-person town of Immokalee. Burlington, Iowa, will also get new bike lanes, along with parking lot improvements, trees, and recreational boat ramps, all courtesy of $17 million from the feds. "This was us taking a half-court shot blindfolded and making it," Burlington city planner Charlie Nichols told The Hawk Eye. "It is an unbelievably good deal for downtown Burlington." That TIGER grants are a good deal for Burlington is not in question. Without the free federal money, city officials would have had to ask their own citizens to foot the bill for these projects. But what exactly taxpayers in Virginia or even Des Moines get from the deal is hard to say. Indeed, aside from a handful of port and rail improvements, few of this year's TIGER grants can be said to much to do with interstate economic activity or any other truly national purpose. The only winners at the federal level from these projects seems to be the politicians whose districts stand to benefit. Akron's grant award came with congratulatory press releases from both of Ohio's senators, as well as Akron-area Reps. Tim Ryan and Marcia Fudge. That aspect of the TIGER grants is not new. A 2012 report by the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website, found that 40 percent of the first two round of TIGER grants went to districts represented by Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; the four highest-ranking Democrats on the same committee each received at least one TIGER grant apiece. Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have spoken of the need to preserve the program. While Trump personally shows little unease with either transactional politics or federal largesse, the members of his administration responsible for writing his infrastructure and budget proposals have other ideas. Every budget request the White House has submitted to Congress has called for the TIGER grant program to be eliminated, including the Fiscal Year 2019 budget, which says that "using Federal dollars to pay for non-[...]



Remy: I Like it, I Love it

Thu, 08 Mar 2018 10:54:00 -0500

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After years of complaining about Washington's fiscal irresponsibility, Remy is finally in office and ready to make a change.

Parody written and performed by Remy
Produced and Edited by Austin Bragg
Music tracks and backing vocals by Ben Karlstrom

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LYRICS:

Spent four to eight years complaining about all the cash we spend
Asking for your vote and money, we need limited government
About how these deficits are costing us a trillion a pop
But vote for me, I'll be as stingy as a GameStop
And then I got elected and took over DC
Cutting back on all spending is what I would do you'd think

But I like it, I love it, I want some more of it
A wall so tall you can't climb above it
Don't know what it is about the spending that I covet
but I like it, I love it, I want some more of it

The Founding Father Daddies tried to teach me currency
Now my spending list is longer than a CVS receipt
Now I'm keeping old programs and taking out loans
I'm scrapping spending caps and I'm cranking out drones
I'm adding more spending, I'm throwing a parade

My list is shovel-ready (so is most of what I say)
Cuz I like it, I love it, I want some more of it
I talk a lot, it turns out I'm bluffing
Don't know what it is about the spending that I covet
but I like it, I love it, I want some more of it




Ben Carson Spent $31K on a Dining Table, and 5 Other Times Trump Cabinet Members Wasted Your Money

Thu, 01 Mar 2018 11:59:00 -0500

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials spent $31,561 on a custom hardwood dining table and chairs for Secretary Ben Carson's personal offices, violating a department policy capping office redecoration expenses at $5,000. A career agency employee alleged she was demoted from a high-level position within HUD after she repeatedly refused to approve expensive office redecoration plans being pushed by Carson's wife, Candy. A department spokesman told reporters that Carson was not aware of the purchase, but did not believe the price was too high, and would not be returning the table. But Carson isn't the first member of the current cabinet to play fast and loose with government expense accounts. Here's a (partial) receipt for the bill of questionable charges you'll be chipping in for next tax season: 1) Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price's Private Jets: Approximately $1 million Tom Price, perhaps the Trump cabinet's most extravagant spender, resigned from the top job at HHS in October after it was revealed he had racked up more than a million dollars of expenses in private charter and military flights. Those expenses included at least 26 private domestic trips which combined government meetings with significant personal business and leisure, including a lunch with his son in Tennessee and time spent at a resort property in Georgia where he owns a home. After resigning, Price agreed to reimburse the government $51,000. 2) Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt's Fancy Secret Phone Booth: $24,570 In addition to some controversial expensive travel of his own, (which he said was necessary because airline passengers are mean to him) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt paid a contractor $24,570 to install a "privacy booth" in his office. The company apparently offered off-the-shelf standard models, but the EPA opted for a customized version, driving up the cost. No prior EPA boss had such a booth, apparently used to prevent eavesdropping on telephone calls, in the administrator's office. Furthermore, former EPA employees told The Washington Post that the agency already has a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), which are used government-wide to ensure the security of sensitive communications, on another floor in its headquarters. 3) Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's European Vacation: $122,000 Back in September, it emerged that Shulkin had spent at least half of a 10-day trip to meet with British and Danish officials in Europe sightseeing with his wife. The couple toured Westminster Abbey, attended Wimbledon, and took a cruise on the river Thames. The federal government paid for Shulkin and his wife's flights to and from their trip and provided a per-diem reimbursement for meals and other personal expenses. A report from the V.A. inspector general's office claimed that during the trip, a V.A. employee "effectively acted as a personal travel concierge" to Shulkin and his wife. The Washington Post reported that "Shulkin's trip came less than two weeks after he signed a memo instructing top VA staffers to determine whether 'employee travel in their organization is essential.'" 4) Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's Charter Flights: $72,849 Following revelations about Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price's travel expenses, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke also came under scrutiny when press outlets learned that the department's Inspector General had opened an investigation into his travel expenses as well. The investigators later reported that Zinke had failed to properly document and disclose his official travel, which included[...]