Spending

Appropriations deal prohibits IRS targeting, slashes Obamacare slush fund

Congress is poised to pass a $1.1 trillion appropriations measure in the coming days, which, if you’re a fiscal conservative, is just another reminder of the Republican surrender on hard-fought, bipartisan spending cuts won in April 2011.

Though there is little to be happy about in terms of the overall spending deal, there is a silver-lining. Congressional negotiators have apparently agreed to language that would prohibit the Internet Revenue Service (IRS) from targeting groups because of their political ideology, according The Washington Times, and significant cuts to the Obamacare slush fund, in addition to preserving incandescent light bulbs:

[S]ome of the most interesting action happened on the sidelines, where negotiators agreed to strict rules to prevent the from targeting groups for ideological scrutiny, and specifically banning the agency from targeting citizens “for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment.”

Negotiators also agreed to block the from imposing standards that effectively would prohibit the sale of incandescent light bulbs. The move continues a prohibition that Republicans imposed when they took control of the  in 2011.

Medicare Drives Costs Up, Forces Taxpayers to Pay Millions for Vacuum Erection Systems

Ludwig von Mises wrote in Planning for Freedom that the “welfare state is merely a method for transforming the market economy step by step into socialism.”

What was once a fertile environment for individuals to prosper is slowly becoming hard to sell. The land of opportunity was thus described precisely because the government avoided making it hard for individuals to save. Savings is what makes funds available for people to invest in other businesses, creating opportunities to people in their communities, promoting economic growth. A nation is only prosperous if its people are capable of investing their own money in what or where they see an opportunity.

When the individual thrives, the community thrives.

This cycle is what guarantees a dynamic that allows everyone to prosper given they pursue their own particular goals by being proactive and participative. In a competitive and free economical environment, everyone has an opportunity to prosper. In a free economical environment, everyone can afford the services they need to consume.

In an economically free environment, everyone can afford their own vacuum erection systems.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, vacuum erection systems cost taxpayers about $175 million within the period between 2006 and 2011. While this may not sound like a real story for you, wait until it gets better.

Ted Cruz knocks Obama’s proposed “promise zones”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) isn’t too fond of President Barack Obama’s proposed “promise zones,” the latest gimmick from the White House in its latest push to focus on economic inequality. In fact, the Texas senator says that the economic policies pushed by the administration have led to inequality.

“It’s altogether fitting that President Obama is today talking about income inequality because income inequality has increased dramatically as a direct result of his economic policies,” said Cruz yesterday in a statement. “Out-of-control government spending, debt, taxes, and regulations have killed millions of jobs. Unfortunately, rather than stop Washington’s job-killing policies, President Obama proposes yet more government spending and debt.”

The so-called “promise zones” purport to “create jobs, increase economic security, expand access to educational opportunities and quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.” The cost of the proposal hasn’t been released, but The Detroit News points to an administration memo from last month which stated that designated areas “will not receive direct funding, but will benefit from technical assistance, federal staff support, and more extensive preference points and access to other federal grant programs.”

The “war on poverty” turns 50

LBJ

If you’re paying attention to Washington politics, you know that there is currently a big push underway by the White House and congressional Democrats to highlight income disparities in the United States.

The familiarity of this song and dance aside — which is, of course, another attempt to turn Americans’ attention away from Obamacare, an unpopular law, and President Obama’s terrible job approval rating — it’s worth noting that today is the 50th anniversary of the “war on poverty.” After this decades-long war, the poverty rate has barely moved, despite Congress spending trillions of dollars to combat it.

The Washington Examiner explains that, by any measure, the war on poverty has been a failure when viewed at the money spent compared to the poverty rate:

[W]hen LBJ declared the war, the U.S. economy was surging and the poverty rate had already declined from 22.4 percent in 1959, the earliest year available from the Census. Between 1965 and 2012, the national poverty rate has stubbornly averaged 13.6 percent per year and it has never fallen below 11.1 percent.

During the current economic downturn, the poverty rate was 15.1 percent in 2010, and 15 percent in 2011 and 2012 (the last year for which Census data is available). That’s the highest it’s been in a three-year span since 1964, and it means a stunning 46.5 million people are still living in poverty half a century later.

Administration plans ad blitz during winter Olympics

Sochi 2014 -- Winter Olympics

The hundreds of millions of dollars already spent by the Obama Administration and outside groups to advertise Obamacare apparently wasn’t enough. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw the disastrous launch of the federal exchange website, is going to spend even more to push Obamacare during next month’s winter Olympic games, according to Politico:

The Obama administration is planning an Olympic-size ad blitz to push health coverage during the winter games next month.

HHS confirmed Tuesday that it has bought advertising time in markets with high rates of uninsured people to air during the Winter Olympics, which run Feb. 7-23.

To date, the administration has focused its outreach efforts in areas around Houston, Dallas, Tampa and Miami, dispatching senior officials like HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to spread the word about new benefits under Obamacare.

The ads, which will run in markets like these across the country, will be aimed at young uninsured people and their families, an HHS official confirmed. POLITICO also confirmed that ads will run in North Carolina. According to HHS, ratings for typical primetime and sports programming dip during the Olympics, so the administration moved some of its paid media budget to the NBC Olympic inventory to maximize viewership.

No word on the images that might be used along with the usual messaging, although high-injury events such as the giant slalom or snowboarding offer immediate visuals to underscore the risk of going without health insurance.

Biggest Stories of 2013: The Republican Surrender Act of 2013

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

Republicans won a hard fought debt ceiling battle in 2011, getting $1.2 trillion in reductions in spending over the course of 10 years. The spending cuts were hailed by supporters as one of the biggest achievements for fiscal conservatives in several years.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) passed both the House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, including votes from Pelosi and Reid, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

But before those bipartisan cuts even kicked in, Republicans began retreating from them, and, in the process, blew their messaging on the need for lower spending and deficit reduction. Why? They wanted to restore some of the defense spending cuts mandated by the BCA, because they wanted to protect crony contractors from cutbacks.

McCain introduces Obamacare alternative in Senate

John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) recently introduced legislation that would repeal Obamacare and replace the unpopular law with patient-centered reforms to lessen healthcare costs and offer consumers more choice.

Based on reforms introduced earlier this year by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), McCain introduced the measure last week before the Senate adjourned for its holiday break.

“I am introducing the Empowering Patients First Act, companion legislation to H.R. 2300, which was introduced in the House by Congressman Tom Price,” said McCain last week in a press statement. “I thank Congressman Price for all of his hard work on this legislation.”

“The Empowering Patients First Act would give patients and their doctors the power to make medical decisions, not Washington,” he said. “There is no doubt that Obamacare is failing, and it is time for Congress to consider our alternatives.”

The Empowering Patients First Act would provide Americans with tax incentives for maintaining health insurance coverage, improve access to health savings accounts (HSAs), reform Medicare and Medicaid, and allow consumers to purchase plans across state lines. It would also guarantee coverage for roughly 1% of Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Republicans talking tough about debt ceiling

In the midst of a complete surrender over the hard-fought spending cuts in the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011, congressional Republicans are talking out loud about making demands to raise the debt ceiling in the spring.

For example, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who brokered the budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), noted over the weekend that House Republicans “don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit” and would “decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.” He later indicated that one potential trade off could be approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doubted that Congress would approve a clean debt ceiling hike. “I think the debt ceiling legislation is a time that brings us all together and gets the president’s attention, which with this president, particularly when it comes to reducing spending, has been a bit of a challenge,” said McConnell this week, according to Politico.

The deal reached during the government shutdown funded the government until January 15 and raised the debt ceiling to February 7. With the budget issue almost certainly out of the way, assuming the Senate passes it, the focus in Congress will be on the debt ceiling.

John Boehner gives Chris Matthews a thrill up his leg

Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews has found a new politician to adore, at least for now. The MSNBC Hardball host opened his show on Monday evening with a rant about the Tea Party and heaped praise on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for pushing the budget deal through the House, despite vocal opposition from conservatives in and outside of Congress.

Matthews host compared conservatives to whining kids riding and complaining the back seat of a car on a long trip. “That’s the kid’s job, just sit back there blaming and complaining,” he said in his usual angry disposition.

“Well, the speaker of the House, who spent the last months and years speaking for the kids in the back of the car, spoke like a grownup and said, I’ll drive the car, but I’m not going to drive a crazy car, damn it. I’m the speaker of the House. I’m second in line to the American presidency, not the Mad Hatter of the Tea Party. That’s what he said,” Matthews added.

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.”

 


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