federal government

What We Spend On Taxes Exceeds What We Spend On Food, Clothing

Each year, we celebrate Tax Freedom Day as the day we, as taxpayers, have earned all of the money we need to pay for the country’s tax bill for that year.

This year, however, our Tax Freedom Day will arrive a few days later.

Taxes have become a burden to all of us, which is why several lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) favor a tax system reform and the implementation of a one-rate income tax system. While his dream is not reality, we’ll continue to work to sustain the government until April 21st this year.

According to the Tax Foundation, Americans will be spending more on taxes in 2014 than they will on food, clothing and housing. The full report estimates that the nation as a whole will be paying about $4.5 trillion dollars in state, local and federal taxes. At least $3 trillion of the total is going to the federal government while $1.5 trillion will be going to local and state governments.

This amounts to over 30 percent of the country’s income paid in taxes. Estimates indicate that Americans will be spending a little over $1.5 trillion with food, about half a trillion with clothing and a little over $2 trillion with housing.

Report: Eliminating duplication in federal government could save taxpayers $45 billion

money down the drain

Most politicians like to beat on their chests when it comes to eliminating government waste and unnecessarily programs. But when it comes to actually doing it, they sound a lot like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who had the audacity to claim last year that “the cupboard is bare,” adding that “[t]here’s no more cuts to make.”

The fact is that there’s plenty of cuts that could be made, and the federal government could save taxpayers billions of dollars just by eliminating duplication. That, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan federal audit agency.

The GAO report identified 26 areas of fragmentation, duplication, or overlapping federal programs that, according to the report “span a broad range of government missions and functions.” That is in addition to the 162 areas identified in previous reports.

To give you an idea of how nonsensical the federal government is, the report, for example, found that 11 different agencies did autism research from FY 2008 to FY 2012. The funds awarded to these agencies totaled nearly $1.2 billion.

Another example is overlapping disability and unemployment payments. Simple reforms to address this problem would save taxpayers $1.2 billion over the next 10 years.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who sponsored the law which requires the annual audit, said the areas identified in the report could taxpayers $45 billion over the next five years, adding to potential savings already identified by the GAO.

Justin Amash: Young people have lost trust in government

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) is not your ordinary Republican. While most of his colleagues are interested in preserving the status quo, he has focused his efforts on transparency in government and protecting individual liberty.

Amash, 33, posts an explanation of every single vote he casts on his Facebook page, a practice he started when he served as a state legislator in Michigan. He has been one of the most consistent fiscal conservatives in the House of Representatives and has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the National Security Agency.

The libertarian-leaning Michigan Republican’s principled stands have often rattled the political establishment, which he wears as a badge of honor. In fact, his constituents in Michigan’s Third Congressional District have responded positively to his independence and willingness to speak out against House Republican leaders when they’re not backing up their rhetoric with bold action.

But Amash’s principled stands have motivated the establishment to recruit a primary challenger to run against him. His popularity both inside and outside in the district, however, has served him well.

The “Rebel Alliance,” what Amash calls his supporters, has stood strong behind him. He hauled in impressive $518,776 in the fourth quarter of 2013, of which $497,968 came from individual contributors. He raised $42,412.99 in a one-day money bomb event last week.

Middle school student comes up with easy way to save taxpayers $400 million

Government Printing Office

Suvir Mirchandani, a Pennsylvania middle school student, has come up with an easy way for the federal and state governments to save taxpayers some $400 million dollars in printing costs — they just need to change their typeface font to Garamond:

First, he charted how often each character was used in four different typefaces: Garamond, Times New Roman, Century Gothic and Comic Sans. Then he measured how much ink was used for each letter, using a commercial tool called APFill® Ink Coverage Software.

Next he enlarged the letters, printed them and cut them out on cardstock paper to weigh them to verify his findings. He did three trials for each letter, graphing the ink usage for each font.

From this analysis, Suvir figured out that by using Garamond with its thinner strokes, his school district could reduce its ink consumption by 24%, and in turn save as much as $21,000 annually.
Using the General Services Administration’s estimated annual cost of ink — $467 million — Suvir concluded that if the federal government used Garamond exclusively it could save nearly 30% — or $136 million per year. An additional $234 million could be saved annually if state governments also jumped on board, he reported.

This kid is brilliant. But given the way the federal government as well as some state governments work, it’s probably too easy. Most bureaucrats see it as their responsibility to spend taxpayer dollars because, if they don’t, they fear their budget will be trimmed. The mindset is “the more money we spend, the more we can justify ourselves.”

No, the United States isn’t in an “era of austerity”

President Barack Obama has frequently complained that the United States is in an “age of austerity,” decrying modest cuts to the rate of spending increases he once supported. This, despite the fact that taxpayers have seen the national debt grow by nearly $6.8 trillion since the beginning of his presidency.

The idea that we’re living in some “age of austerity” is just mindboggling, as A. Barton Hinkle sarcastically explained in his latest column:

The end of austerity cannot come soon enough, as far as your humble correspondent is concerned. And a quick look at the historical budget tables shows why: In 2008, the federal government spent just a hair under $3 trillion. After six years of President Slash-and-Burn, spending has shrunk to almost $4 trillion. If we keep cutting like this, it will be down to $5 trillion before you know it.

These savage reductions have taken place in nearly every major federal program. Take defense spending: The year before Obama took office, it stood at $594 billion. It’s now $597 billion. Back in 2001 it was almost $300 billion. Even if you adjust for inflation, it’s clear that defense spending has shrunk at an alarming rate.

Same deal for food stamps: Under President Barack Obama, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has gone from $40 billion to $78 billion, in constant dollars. And that’s after it went from $20 billion to $40 billion under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Spending cuts like that are simply barbaric.

Drug policy debate should focus on federalism

Ted Cruz

In a speech last month at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) argued that, rather than ignoring certain laws, President Barack Obama should go to Congress to start “a real conversation” about federal drug policy.

“You could have hearings. You could look at the problem. You could discuss commonsense changes that maybe should happen or shouldn’t happen. This president didn’t do that,” said Cruz. “He just said, ‘The laws say one thing’—and mind you, these are criminal laws; these are laws that say if you do X, Y, and Z, you will go to prison. The president announced, ‘No, you won’t.’”

ReasonTV recently chatted with Cruz about the administration’s enforcement of federal drug laws. The firebrand conservative insists that President Obama should enforce federal drug laws, regardless of whether he agrees with them, arguing that ignoring laws passed by Congress sets “a very dangerous precedent.”

“The Obama administration’s approach to drug policy is to simply announce that across the country, it is going to stop enforcing certain drug laws,” Cruz told ReasonTV. “Now, that may or may not be a good policy, but I would suggest that should concern anyone — it should even concern libertarians who support that policy outcome — because the idea that the president simply says criminal laws that are on the books, we’re going to ignore [them]. That is a very dangerous precedent.”

Oregon Democrat blames “big business” for his state’s Obamacare woes

Jeff Merkley

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has found a new punching bag for his state’s Obamacare exchange website woes. Politico notes that the Oregon Democrat is blaming “big business” for the problems with the state’s health insurance exchange website, CoverOregon.com.

The problems with this particular state exchange are, arguably, even worse than those that occurred on the federal exchange. As of mid-November, Cover Oregon had not enrolled anyone into a private health plan through the exchange. Numbers provided by the Obama Administration found that just 44 people had selected health plans in the first two months of the open enrollment period.

Though enrollment numbers have improved in recent weeks, Oregon officials are still seeing enrollments below even the lowest-level projections. The state’s exchange website, by the way, still isn’t fully functional, despite getting $59 million from the federal government to assist with implementation.

Merkley, who is up for re-election this year, blames Oracle, the California-based company contracted to build the website, for this sordid mess — and it’s a talking point that’s being repeated by Democrats around the country:

Republicans may coalesce behind a healthcare reform alternative in 2014

After more than three dozen votes to repeal, delay or defund Obamacare, House Republicans may take a new strategy in 2014 by coalescing behind a comprehensive set of healthcare alternatives.

In an interview with United Liberty about his healthcare policy alternative, the Empowering Patients First Act, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) explained that House Republican leaders have told him that they’re interested in moving the ball forward.

“I have always thought that we need a positive alternative and that Republicans, especially in the House, need to coalesce around a plan,” Price said. “We haven’t been successful with being able to push that but I think we’ve gone over that bridge now.”

“Leadership has said repeatedly to me and to others within our conference that they’re interested in having the conference come around a single plan,” he noted. “So I think in the first quarter or shortly thereafter of this new year, we’ll see the House Republicans coalesce around a plan.”

Republicans have been criticized for not putting forward a specific set of healthcare policy alternatives to present to voters, despite having several different proposals from which to choose. Some, however, believe that they shouldn’t bother, given the Obamacare meltdown in the last three months of 2013. Others fear that that pushing an alternative could backfire and/or that the effort will be wasted.

New report highlights $30 billion in wasteful government spending

The federal government has doled out nearly $1 million since 2010 to study the origins and influence of popular romance in books and films, $3 million spent by NASA to study how Congress works, and $150,000 to develop an educational game based on the zombie apocalypse.

These are just a few examples of how Washington is spending taxpayer dollars, according to a new report, Wastebook 2013, released yesterday by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). The report, which highlights nearly $30 billion in wasteful, low-priority spending, comes as Congress debates a budget that will rollback modest, bipartisan spending cuts.

“While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress,” said Corburn in a statement on the report.

The report, Wastebook 2013, highlights nearly $30 billion in. The 100 examples provided in the report just scratches the surface of the large problem, according to Coburn.

“Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown,” said Coburn. He noted that the wasteful spending highlighted in the report is “a small fraction of the more than $200 billion we throw away every year through fraud, waste, duplication and mismanagement.”

CBO study sheds light on income redistribution

Amid falling poll numbers, thanks to the Obamacare meltdown, President Barack Obama has tried to change the narrative with familiar, tired themes of income equality and higher taxes on the wealthy. But a new study from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), via CNS News, undermines these themes, showing that the 40% of households paid 106.2% of net income taxes in 2010 (emphasis added):

The top 40 percent of households by before-tax income actually paid 106.2 percent of the nation’s net income taxes in 2010, according to a new study by the Congressional Budget Office.

At the same time, households in the bottom 40 percent took in an average of $18,950 in what the CBO called “government transfers” in 2010.

Taxpayers in the top 40 percent of households were able to pay more than 100 percent of net federal income taxes in 2010 because Americans in the bottom 40 percent actually paid negative income taxes, according to the CBO study entitled, “The Distribution of Household Income and Federal Taxes, 2010.
Although they paid negative federal income taxes on average in 2010, Americans in the bottom 40 percent of households did end up paying some taxes to the federal government that year, according to the CBO.

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