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Improper Payments Top $500B During Obama Years

Breitbart

By its own estimate, the government made about $100 billion in payments last year to people who may not have been entitled to receive them — tax credits to families that didn’t qualify, unemployment benefits to people who had jobs and medical payments for treatments that might not have been necessary.

Congressional investigators say the figure could be even higher.

The Obama administration has reduced the amount of improper payments since they peaked in 2010. Still, estimates from federal agencies show that some are wasting big money at a time when Congress is squeezing agency budgets and looking to save more.

“Nobody knows exactly how much taxpayer money is wasted through improper payments, but the federal government’s own astounding estimate is more than half a trillion dollars over the past five years,” said Rep. John Mica, R-Fla. “The fact is, improper payments are staggeringly high in programs designed to help those most in need — children, seniors and low-income families.”

Read More.

Earmarks Will Come Back?

“Earmarks will come back.”

No, you’re not hearing things and that’s not a joke. It was uttered by the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. If Reid and his friends get their way, we could see the return of earmarks this year.

Speaker John Boehner and Republicans in the United States House of Representatives are keeping their promise to end earmarks. When the speaker says “no earmarks” we believe him. Watch this short video, and keep up to date with Ending Spending by following us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest on what is sure to be a critical fight on Capitol Hill as we continue to battle against earmarks.

Fiscal Balancing Act

Original Posted by The Peter G. Peterson Foundation
Janice Eberly (Northwestern University, NBER) and Phillip Swagel (University of Maryland)

Though many argue that we face a binary choice between either growing our economy or stabilizing our long-term fiscal position, in a new paper commissioned by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a bipartisan team of leading economists explores how policies to achieve economic growth and fiscal stability are related and complementary. In “Fiscal Balancing Act,” economists Janice Eberly and Phillip Swagel look at ways to balance existing federal commitments with the need to invest in our future, examining a range of short- and long-run policies aimed at creating an environment for broadly-shared income gains, greater competitiveness and social mobility.

Key Findings from “Fiscal Balancing Act”

  • America’s economic health is closely tied to its fiscal health. A strong and stable economy with sustained job creation and broadly-shared growth requires a foundation of fiscal responsibility. Likewise, a solid long-term fiscal foundation is supported by a growing, thriving economy. A well-targeted, balanced fiscal adjustment is thus not only a budget issue; it is an issue of long-term productivity and growth.
  • Our long-term fiscal picture remains unsustainable. While the U.S. fiscal position has improved in recent years as we have emerged from the Great Recession, long-term sustainability has not been achieved, and economic growth remains below desired levels.
  • Addressing the long-term fiscal imbalance can support economic growth and job creation. A gradual fiscal adjustment would provide a foundation for economic growth and stability, creating room in the budget for activities that promote broadly-shared income gains and mobility. Effective and well-targeted public investments contribute to prosperity by enhancing productivity and by creating an economic environment in which the private sector can thrive.
  • Flexibility for future policymakers. Putting our long-term fiscal house in order during “good” times will give future policymakers more flexibility to use fiscal tools to support growth and job creation during the “bad” times. A stable and sustainable fiscal position, therefore, both ensures the ability to address future slowdowns and sets an economic foundation for long-run growth and prosperity.
  • Fiscal adjustment should be gradual, fair, and protective of the most vulnerable. Fiscal policy changes should be implemented gradually as the economy improves and monetary support is correspondingly withdrawn. Because fiscal tools help to establish the safety net we value, fiscal adjustment should protect the most vulnerable and those least able to adjust to these changes.

Read more here.

Referendum on Obamacare

It’s official: voters are tired of big government, big spending politicians. And this week’s special election in Florida confirms it.

Obamacare is perhaps the biggest new spending programs of the Obama presidency. And it’s the single issue David Jolly use to defeat Democrat Alex Sink. In fact, he made it clear that he is committed to repealing Obamacare entirely.

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, correctly noted: “It’s rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a must-win, but the special election in Florida’s 13th District falls into that category for Democrats.”

And here’s even more frightening news for the big spending Democrats in the Senate. From National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar: “The results are a clear warning sign to Senate Democrats, whose majority is threatened thanks to a Republican-friendly map and a national environment that’s tilted in the GOP’s favor. At least seven Democratic-held Senate seats are being contested in states more conservative than the Florida House battleground.”

So it’s official: this weeks’ special election was referendum on Obamacare spending. The voters spoke. And elections have consequences.

For more check out James Taranto’s coverage in the WSJ

The Majority Matters When It Comes to Earmarks

Ending Spending and its community of supporters and activists worked hard in 2010 to convince Congress finally to abandon the wasteful practice of earmarking. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, they promised to rein in out-of-control federal spending and change the way Congress spends taxpayer money.  One important step in that process was banning earmarks.

Now that Congress is finally passing an appropriations bill, we can see the results. In March 2009, in one of his first acts in office, President Obama signed omnibus appropriations legislation that included approximately 9,000 earmarks. In January 2014, House and Senate negotiators reach agreement on omnibus appropriations legislation that includes NO earmarks.

What a difference a few years — and our collective efforts — have made.

Credit: Speaker.gov

Brown gets more encouragement to launch Senate bid in N.H.

(CNN) – An advocacy group that is encouraging former Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts to launch a Republican challenge next year in neighboring New Hampshire against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is going up with a new TV commercial criticizing the Democrat for her support of the federal healthcare law.

Ending Spending tells CNN that its TV spot will start running Tuesday in the Granite State. The group says it’s spending in the low six figures to run it for a week.

The commercial starts with the narrator saying: “On health care, Jean Shaheen didn’t tell the truth.” That’s followed by a clip of Shaheen from a Senate floor speech in 2009 in support of the Affordable Care Act that cleared Congress the next year with only Democratic support.

“You can keep your insurance if you like it. It will increase choices for families. It will promote competition,” says Shaheen in the clip.

Those comments, first made a number of times by President Barack Obama as he pushed for passage of the sweeping health care measure, came back to haunt him this fall as some Americans were informed they wouldn’t be able to keep their coverage because their plans didn’t meet standards mandated by Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

Read more here.

Bipartisanship: A Four-Letter Word?

“The ‘Bipartisan Budget Act’ reminds us why bipartisanship is sometimes a four-letter word. Bipartisanship in DC usually just means that the size of government is growing, and that appears to be true with this compromise as well. We would have preferred that the full amount of the sequester cuts had remained intact. But what do fiscal conservatives expect? Does anyone actually believe a bill negotiated by Paul Ryan and Jeff Sessions wouldn’t be infinitely better than a Patty Murray-Paul Ryan bill? The way to fix that is simple — we must put fiscal conservatives in charge of the Senate — and the way to do that is obvious. First, stop attacking Senators who favor cutting spending, balancing the budget and repealing Obamacare. Second, go on the offense and take the battle to those Democratic Senators who consistently vote for higher taxes, more spending, and bigger government.”

Ending Spending Supports House Bill To Let Americans Keep Their Healthcare Plan

President Obama famously promised: “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

In reality, millions on Americans learned the hard way that under Obamacare, the President’s statement simply wasn’t true and MILLIONS OF AMERICANS HAVE RECEIVED THE BAD NEWS — they are losing their insurance.

Now, Ending Spending has signed on with other conservative and free market groups to support H.R. 3350, introduced in the House by Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and over two dozen Republicans. The bill would allow Americans to keep their health care plans if they like them – fulfilling President Obama’s “promise” made time and time again.

To learn more about the bill, read our letter to Congressman Upton here.

Let’s get rid of (the term) entitlements

By Robert J. Samuelson
The Washington Post

Let’s drop the whole notion of “entitlement.” Just eliminate it. Politicians, pundits and academics who talk about entitlements would then have to name the actual programs and argue their merits and demerits. This would encourage clarity and candor. Of course, that’s why it won’t happen. Generally, Americans don’t want clarity and candor in their fiscal debates. We blame our leaders for budget brawls — this latest was a doozy — but forget that our leaders are largely governed by public opinion, which is awash in contradictions.

So the government is “open” and the immediate threat of default has lifted. Great. But the political stalemate remains. Americans oppose excessive government spending and persistent deficits. Yet they also support the individual benefit programs (a.k.a. “entitlements”), led by Social Security, that drive spending and deficits.

Until the 1980s, entitlement wasn’t part of everyday language. Ronald Reagan was apparently the first president to use the term extensively. He may have “tired of getting beaten up every time he mentioned Social Security, and wanted a broader and more neutral term,” political scientist Norman Ornstein has suggested. Entitlement is a bland label. To say there’s an “entitlement problem” shrewdly avoids connecting it explicitly with popular programs. President Obama evasively speaks of entitlements in this way; so do most Republicans. Their veiled references cover Medicare and Medicaid as well as Social Security.

Read more here.

The Earmark That Wasn’t

Breitbart

There are a lot of reasons to be upset about the latest bipartisan Congressional responsibility punt – i.e., the CR and debt limit deal.

For starters, it is beyond unfortunate that the Senate’s short-term agreement does not include any of the sensible reforms proposed by Republicans – such as a one-year delay of Obamacare or the individual mandate and the provision under which Members of Congress and senior government officials would be subject to the same law they are forcing on the rest of America. The fact that individuals are being mandated to live with Obamacare, while Congress is exempt from the law, is not fair and probably not legal. There are countries on this planet that pass laws that apply only to the people and not to the government – like Russia, North Korea, and Iran – and now the United States.

The shortcomings in this agreement are due to the abdication of leadership on the part of the President and Senate Democrats, and fiscal conservatives have no reason to cheer. The debt is now free just to keep growing and growing.

However, one provision in the bill that has received extra scrutiny is the so-called “Kentucky Kickback.” Given the catchy name, this is understandable. Because our advocacy group, Ending Spending – which was originally named “Taxpayers Against Earmarks” – had worked so hard to convince the House and Senate to pass the earmark moratorium in 2010, I was especially dismayed by the news.
The victory over earmarks was more important than people realized at the time. In fact, just yesterday on Morning Joe, liberal reporter Al Hunt argued that the reason we were in the shutdown mess this month was because of the earmark ban. Hunt longed for the days in the 1990s when leadership would just hand out “free bridges” in exchange for a budget agreement.

Al Hunt is both right and wrong. He’s right – because of the earmark ban, it is more difficult to pass legislation that does not enjoy broad public support. But that’s a good thing. Earmarks were the gasoline on the fire of the growth in government, and the earmark ban makes it harder to waste taxpayer dollars.

So I decided to look into this business about a possible earmark for Kentucky in the CR – called the Olmsted Lock and Dam project, which is being administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. The provision in question, inserted by Senators Feinstein and Alexander, increased the budget authorization up to $2.9 billion – meaning the provision did not actually appropriate any money, it just increased the existing budget authority.

Like other anti-earmark groups, we evaluate appropriations earmarks based on a number of different factors, including:

  • Was the project requested by the Administration? If it was requested, does the funding greatly exceed the original budget request?
  • Was the project requested by only one or a few Members or Senators?
  • Was the project the subject of Congressional hearings, review and authorization?
  • Does the project serve only a local or special interest?
  • Was the funding the subject of a government contracts award competition?

Applying these criteria, it is not even a close call – the Olmsted project was not an earmark, an opinion shared by the respected independent group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

For starters, the provision was specifically requested by the Obama Administration. Second, the provision in the bill does NOT appropriate money – but rather is an authorization. This is precisely what anti-earmark advocates want to happen. Any actual dollars expended will have to be appropriated at a later date. Moreover, it has been the subject of other Congressional action. Increased budget authority for the Olmsted project was included in the Water Resources Development Act – which has passed the Senate and passed in committee in the House. Finally, as discussed above, while there certainly will be benefits for Kentucky, completion of the new locks system clearly has benefits for the larger Ohio-Mississippi River area and the nation as a whole.
These technical distinctions about what is an earmark, however, don’t solve the question of whether the project is wasteful parochial pork.

The Olmsted project is a massive public works project that has been under construction for several years and is only halfway to completion. As with most government programs, it is costing way more than originally estimated – hence the need for Congressional action to increase the amount permitted to be spent on the project. The locks are located near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the town of Olmsted, Illinois, and the new dam and locks will help increase the speed and amount of commercial traffic on the busy rivers.

The conclusion that the Olmsted project is not an earmark and appears worthy of funding does not mean that Ending Spending endorses the practice of putting extraneous provisions in continuing resolutions – we don’t. CRs should be as narrow and possible. For that matter, we don’t even like CRs to begin with. That the Olmsted project was included in the CR is further evidence that Congress is dysfunctional and we need to return to regular order where legislation is prepared and passed in a timely fashion. As usual, the process that led to this CR was terrible, and no one should be surprised at the result.

Brian Baker is the President of Ending Spending.

Read more: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/10/18/The-Earmark-That-Wasnt

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