It’s been just over a month since we learned of the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups and a few weeks since it was revealed that the IRS spent $50 million on so-called “training” conferences.
But the hits just keep on coming for the IRS. CBS News notes that a new report from the IRS’s watchdog shows that agency employees wasted millions of dollars on specious purchases and personal items during a two-year period:
Poor oversight by the Internal Revenue Service allowed workers to use agency credit cards to buy wine for an expensive luncheon, dorky swag for managers’ meetings and, for one employee, romance novels and diet pills, an agency watchdog said Tuesday.
Two IRS credit cards were used to buy online pornography, though the employees said the cards were stolen. One of the workers reported five agency credit cards lost or stolen.
IRS employees used agency credit cards to make more than 273,000 purchases totaling nearly $108 million in 2010 and 2011, according to the report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
[I]nvestigators found that one IRS employee spent $2,655 on diet pills, romance novels, steaks, a smartphone and baby-related items, including bottles, games and clothes. The case was referred to the IG’s office that investigates employee misconduct, the report said.
Fiscal conservatives scored a big victory yesterday afternoon as the House of Representatives rejected the $940 billion Farm Bill by a vote of 195 to 234.
The Farm Bill was easily passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate earlier this month. But the cost of the bill, which is 56% higher than the $604 billion package passed in 2008, was too much for many fiscal conservatives in the House.
This legislation, which is usually passed by Congress every five years, is filled with subsidies for special interests and payments to farmers to not grow crops to keep prices artificially high. It also renews the SNAP food stamp program, consumes nearly 79% of the total cost of the bill.
Efforts were made by many members concerned about the cost of the bill to end farm subsidies to wealthy farmers and to members; however, The Hill notes that those and many other worthy amendments were ruled out-of-order by the House Rules Committee.
For example, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) offered an amendment to separate food stamp funding from the rest of the Farm Bill. During testimony before the House Rules Committee, Stutzman explained that Congress has been passing welfare legislation under the guise of farm policy.
On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) released a joint score of the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill, which is currently being debated in the United States Senate.
According to the report, S. 744 — the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act — would increase the number of permanent residents by 10.4 million and reduce the budget deficit by $197 billion over the next 10 years. Stepping outside the normal 10-year budget window, the report also found that long-term deficit reduction would be much more significant.
“Taking into account a limited set of economic effects, the cost estimate shows that changes in direct spending and revenues under the legislation would decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the 2014–2023 period and by roughly $700 billion over the 2024–2033 period,” noted the CBO/JCT report. “[T]he economic impacts not included in the cost estimate would have no further net effect on budget deficits over the 2014–2023 period and would further reduce deficits (relative to the effects reported in the cost estimate) by about $300 billion over the 2024–2033 period.”
To put that in more understandable terms, the CBO and JCT report says that the immigration reform bill will reduce federal budget deficits by nearly $1.2 trillion over the next 20 years (2014 to 2033).
The fact that outlandish misinformation flies around Capitol Hill as various groups fight to keep their subsidies is nothing new. But sometimes, the misinformation is so misleading and shocking that it’s important to stop and take note.
The prize for deception today goes to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., who yesterday found himself desperately fighting to keep the massive subsidy scheme known as federal crop insurance in place in the doomed Farm Bill, despite a rising tide of opposition among members of his own party.
A bipartisan amendment offered by Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Tom Petri, R-Wis., took strong steps toward placing a reasonable scope on the program, which has consistently come in above cost projections by encouraging farmers to over-insure. Provisions in the amendment include a means-test of $250,000, a payment limit of $50,000, a reduction in subsidies to the insurance industry and transparency of premium support recipients.
Each of these provisions is essential to make the program sustainable over the long term, but to hear Chairman Lucas tell it, the amendment would single-handedly destroy agriculture in America. In a letter sent out to congressmen today, the chairman alleges the following:
The amendment is backed by groups whose goal is to cut $100 billion out of the Farm Bill’s safety net and crop insurance which would zero out the safety net and gut crop insurance.
Some of the same groups say it is their goal to eliminate all federal support for crop insurance.
Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) seems a litte confused about what party he belongs to. During an appearance on CNBC, the Alaska Democrat tried to distance himself from his the Leftist-wing of his party by telling the hosts that he is a “Rockefeller Republican”:
Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) on Monday said he’s closer to being a Rockefeller Republican than a Pelosi Democrat.
“Probably a Rockefeller Republican,” the Alaska senator told CNBC Monday morning when asked whether he was closer to identifying as that or as a Pelosi Democrat.
The comment signifies Begich’s efforts to put some distance between himself and national Democrats in the libertarian-leaning state.
Well, that’s flatly absurd. Begich, who serves on Democratic leadership in the Senate, is no doubt nervous about running for re-election in a state that Mitt Romney won by 14 points. In 2008, he barely defeated then-Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who was found guilty of lying about gifts he’d received from an oil company (that conviction was reversed last year).
Written by Chris Edwards, Director of Tax Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
It’s widely accepted that George W. Bush was a big-spending president. He was a social conservative, but not a fiscal one. To his credit, however, even Bush recognized how wasteful and unfair farm subsidies are, and he vetoed the last major farm bill in 2008.
That bill “would needlessly expand the size and scope of government,” he said in his veto message. Unfortunately, Congress overrode Bush’s veto and the 2008 farm bill became law at an estimated taxpayer cost of $640 billion over 10 years.
Congress is moving ahead on another farm bill this year, with the Senate recently passing its version and the House to take up a bill shortly. The Senate-passed bill would spend $955 billion over 10 years—49 percent more than the 2008 bill that was too expensive even for Bush.
Four-fifths of the spending in this year’s farm bill is for food stamps, yet 18 Republican senators still voted for it. Perhaps those members hadn’t noticed that the cost of food stamps has quadrupled over the last decade. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed that federal government debt has doubled since 2008. To members who see themselves as fiscal conservatives, it should be obvious that a less expensive bill this time around is appropriate, rather than one that is far more expensive.
While the Obama Administration continues to complain about the sequester, they haven’t exactly been frugal during what is claimed to be tough budgetary times. Back in March, for example, reports surfaced that Vice President Joe Biden and his entourage spent extravagantly on the taxpayer dime during two-night trip to Paris in London.
That trend is continuing. The Washington Post reported yesterday that President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa will cost taxpayers anywhere between $60 million and $100 million:
Hundreds of U.S. Secret Service agents will be dispatched to secure facilities in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. A Navy aircraft carrier or amphibious ship, with a fully staffed medical trauma center, will be stationed offshore in case of an emergency.
Military cargo planes will airlift in 56 support vehicles, including 14 limousines and three trucks loaded with sheets of bulletproof glass to cover the windows of the hotels where the first family will stay. Fighter jets will fly in shifts, giving 24-hour coverage over the president’s airspace, so they can intervene quickly if an errant plane gets too close.
Obama’s trip could cost the federal government $60 million to $100 million based on the costs of similar African trips in recent years, according to one person familiar with the journey, who was not authorized to speak for attribution. The Secret Service planning document, which was provided to The Post by a person who is concerned about the amount of resources necessary for the trip, does not specify costs.
There is an ongoing debate in Congress about defense spending. While Republicans have sought further spending cuts to discretionary spending, many have resisted efforts to cut waste and other needless spending inside the Pentagon’s budget.
The Constitution provides the federal government with power to provide for defense. But far too often members of Congress use this as an excuse to justify spending that has less to do with protecting the country and more to do with lining the pockets of donors or other politically-connected government contractors.
Two free market groups — the National Taxpayers Union and the R Street Institute — released a new study yesterday explaining that conservatives can roll back much of the excess in the defense budget and still protect the homeland.
In the study — Defending America, Defending Taxpayers: How Pentagon Spending Can Better Reflect Conservative Values — Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, and Andrew Moylan, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute, outline nearly $1.9 trillion in very specific budget savings that can be attained over the next decade without sacrificing national security.
The Internal Revenue Service is facing more scrutiny. Not only are congressional investigators looking into the agency’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative organizations that were seeking tax-exempt status, a forthcoming report will show that the IRS spent lavishly on conferences over a three-year period:
The Internal Revenue Service is facing criticism over past spending at its staff conferences, the latest controversy to hit the agency.
An internal watchdog at the Treasury Department is set to report Tuesday that the IRS spent almost $50 million on more than 200 employee conferences from 2010 through 2012, spending the tax-collecting agency’s new acting commissioner called “inappropriate.” The findings come amid revelations that the IRS targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status and mark the second time in the past year that a federal agency has come under fire for its spending on conferences.
And just a few months after the IRS was criticized for wasting taxpayer money on a poorly produced Star Trek-theme training video, yet another video has come out that shows IRS employees linedancing. The purpose of the video, which cost $1,600 to make, isn’t exactly known, though it was shown at a 2010 conference.
Since the sequester took effect at the beginning of March, the Obama Administration has tried to play political games — including ending White House tours, threatening access to national parks, and furloughing air traffic controllers — all in an effort to make Americans feel the so-called “spending cuts.”
But despite the claims that the sequester — which is merely a small cut to the rate of spending growth over the next 10 years — is hurting Washington, the federal government has posted openings for some 10,300 jobs at a cost $792 million per year. That number is in addition openings the government was already trying to fill (emphasis mine):
The budget cuts known as sequestration were supposed to wreak havoc, forcing the shrinking of critical workforces including airport security officers and food inspectors.
But since sequestration kicked in March 4, the government has posted openings for 4,300 federal job titles to hire some 10,300 people.
The median position has a salary topping out at $76,000, and one-fourth of positions pay $113,000 or more, according to an analysis by The Washington Times of federal job listings.