The ACORN Saga: Another Argument for Transparency
The following was intially posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org.
Last night, the Senate voted to strip funding in the THUD appropriations bill from the corrupt Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN). The vote came after news broke that the non-profit, which was indicted in several states for voter fraud last fall, was using your tax dollars to counsel a couple acting as a pimp and prostitute on how to commit housing and tax fraud to operate their “business.”
To be sure, this story is probably only the tip of the iceberg. Even after making national news for this recent scandal, indictments of voter fraud and its radical intimidation tactics, the group still feels it is entitled to your tax dollars. The Examiner reports that the ACORN Institute has applied for over $6 million in grants for broadband projects. This is on top of the estimated $53 million it has already received from taxpayers since 2003. It is important to note that while the amendments passed last night that prohibited ACORN from receiving funding from the THUD appropriations bill, it is still eligible to for money in the “stimulus” plan – up to $8 billion dollars. While we have been tracking the “stimulus” money spent on wasteful projects such as checks sent to prisoners and checkpoints for no one, the deliberate allocation of funds to an organization actively involved in illegal activities is entirely different exploitation of taxpayers altogether.
The recognition in the Senate that taxpayers should not be ACORN’s benefactor is a good first step, but there will always be groups bellying up the public trough, fighting to stick their hands deep into the taxpayer’s pocket. The only permanent and actual solution is full, complete transparency – if Americans could track, dollar for dollar, where their money was going, Congress would think twice before giving a cent to ACORN.
The Final Cost of Government Day Arrives
The following was initially posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org
In Connecticut, the average worker has to work until September 7 to meet all costs imposed by government. Out of 365 days in 2009, Connecticuter must toil on average 250 days to pay off his or her share of government spending and regulatory burden on federal, state and local levels. All other states, and D.C, have their Cost of Government Day earlier, which means taxpayers have to work the longest of anyone else in the nation to pay off their cost of government.
This is due to the ‘tax and spend’ policies advanced by the Connecticut government for the past several years. The Nutmeg State continually spends beyond its means…and forces Connecticut taxpayers to foot the enormous bill.
This year, the egregious abuse of taxpayers’ money has come to a standstill as the state struggles to come up with a budget. The latest budget that passed the legislature includes over a billion dollars in tax increases to compensate for the state’s poor fiscal house. While the budget has not yet been signed, Governor Rell is going to allow this unsustainable expansion of state spending by allowing it to become law without her signature. This signals that things will not be improving anytime soon for our final COGD state.
photo credit: Birdfreak.com
Cost of Government Day Finally Arrives in New Jersey
The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org
Today is the day on which New Jerseyians have finally paid off the burden imposed by state, local and federal spending and regulations. While the national average fell on August 12 in 2009, taxpayers in the Garden State had to work an astounding total of 249 days out of the year to pay for the cost of government. Only one state, Connecticut, has a later COGD than New Jersey.
New Jersey has tried to hide its overspending problem by constantly raising taxes on its citizens. However, taxpayers aren’t sticking around to have the state take all of their money – between 2003 and 2007 the Garden State lost over 260,000 residents who took their income and earning capacities with them.
The taxpayers that are left in New Jersey are forced to shoulder the burden imposed by the state’s unscrupulous spending. The state is the worst tax climate in the country, due in part to the budget passed this year that raises taxes on New Jerseyians by $1.5 billion. As taxpayers continue to flee the state in search of less hostile environments to raise their families and run their businesses, the Garden State would be well-advised to learn from its mistakes. However, if the state continues to spend beyond its means, it will eventually find itself without taxpayers to foot the bill.
photo credit: hydropeek
Cost of Government Day Finally Arrives in New York
The following was initially posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org
While the average national worker toiled until August 12th to pay off the burden imposed by federal, state and local spending and the regulatory burden, New Yorkers have had to work until today, the last day in August, to start working for themselves. New York has the third latest Cost of Government Day, followed only by New Jersey and Connecticut whose COGDs fall in the first few days of September.
The reasons for New York’s late COGD are manifold. The Empire State has increased spending since 2003 by 12.5% while its population grew by a measly .5%. In line with the state’s history of outrageous spending, the Gov. proposed a budget this February that increased spending by $1.4 billion, levying $4.1 billion in tax hikes on New Yorkers to fund his plan.
The legislature ultimately passed a budget that raised income taxes by $4 billion and other taxes and fees by $2 billion to compensate for the state’s overspending problem. There is no end in sight for the state’s spending in excess and if New York continues to live beyond its means and force taxpayers to pay for it, it will continue to lose residents until there is no one left to foot the bill.
Sickeningly Sweet - Sugar Quotas & Obama's Protectionism
Given his dismal record on free trade issues, perhaps it is not surprising that the current debate surrounding the sugar industry indicates that President Obama will continue to champion protectionist worldview. Last week, food companies sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to increase the stringent quotas in place to insure the amount of foreign sugar entering the American market is restricted. So far, the only action from the administration has been silence – the date by which an increase in quota was to be announced came and went without action.
However, an increase in quotas is only a prescription for the pain, not the disease. The underlying mechanism at work has damaged the American economy for years and in the current state of financial affairs, should be reevaluated and repealed immediately. Protectionist policies regarding sugar are some of the oldest in our history, and have done some of the most harm – quotas are designed to inflate prices to protect American sugar by prohibiting cheaper foreign products to compete in the U.S. market. A 2006 study by the International Trade Administration reported that for every job saved by sugar quotas, three jobs were lost to manufacturing as companies moved to countries like Canada and Mexico where sugar can be purchased at one-half or one-third the price of that in the United States. As a result, American companies have to pay extra for sugar their international competitors get at a much better rate, or stop using sugar to maintain a competitive edge. If you’ve traveled internationally and noticed your Coca-cola tastes far better abroad that’s why – in the United States Coke is made from high-fructose corn syrup. Everywhere else, it’s made from sugar.
Taxpayers, then, are getting hit twice by failed sugar protectionist policies – subsidizing the farming and especially the sugar industry costs taxpayers billions while quotas cause prices to skyrocket and forces consumers to pay hugely inflated prices; in the United States sugar sells for 56 cents a pound while the international market price is nearly a third of that – 23 cents. If the Obama Administration was truly concerned about the state of the nation’s economy, it would stop trumpeting protectionist policies that have, for years, been used as misguided political artillery for creating American jobs. Forcing taxpayers to “Buy American” or to buy American sugar is an unsustainable status quo and the United States should not be forced to learn that lesson more than once.
Please Stop Stimulating Us, Mr. President
The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org
On Friday, August 7th, President Obama gave a speech in the rose garden in response to the release of the jobless statistics by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed slightly less dismal unemployment numbers than were expected for July. The President lauded the “stimulus” as a move that “rescued our economy from catastrophe” and assured those in attendance that “today, we’re pointed in the right direction.”
While unemployment still teeters just under 10% for the national average and 26 states saw an increase in their unemployment numbers over the last month, if the Administration believes the economy to be on the upswing, it should act accordingly. After only spending 10% of the “stimulus” act, America is apparently back on the right track and Congress should move swiftly to repeal the rest of the unobligated funds in the act to give back to the American taxpayers what was taken from them in February to “stimulate” the economy. While the country is sorely missing those 3.5 million jobs the president promised to save or create, the President clearly believes he has delivered the American people from the economic disaster that was certain without the “stimulus” act. As such, he should refrain from continuing to uselessly spend taxpayers’ money to “stimulate” an economy that has already been saved.
It Takes Weeks to Post a Bill Online. Really?!?
It takes weeks to post a bill that has already been passed out of committee online? REALLY?!?
The Examiner has a great op-ed today discussing the author’s attempts to convince the House Energy and Commerce Committee to put their health care bill online. The committee passed its version before it left for recess on Friday, amending its initial mark-up extensively. From the article:
When we called them yesterday morning to get a copy, we were told that the amended version might not be compiled until after the August recess. When we called back for an official comment, spokeswoman Lindsey Vidal gave us the slightly less jarring news that it would take at least two to three weeks, even though we live in an age of computer cut-and-paste.
So, the committee has a final bill, but will need WEEKS to post it online? REALLY?!? What are they doing, writing it in longhand and then scanning it onto their website? After all, it’s not like they’re taking time to read the bill….
The “stimulus” was rushed through Congress at lightning speed and has since proven ineffective and wasteful (and not to mention full of provisions Members weren’t so fond of…a tiny detail they may have realized had they actually read the bill).
Cap-and-Trade has not even been printed in full after a 300-page amendment was tacked onto it in the dead of the night when votes took place on this massive tax that in the coming years will raise American families’ energy costs by $4,600 and cost the country over a million jobs.
And now the government wants to push health care legislation that will upend the most successful healthcare system in the world and allow bureaucracy to dictate how much your health is worth in the same opaque and dishonest way and thinks Americans are just going to accept it? REALLY?!?
And this is the “most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history?” REALLY?!?
Highway Trust Fund Wastes Taxpayer Dollars, Coburn/McCain Study Finds
The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:
Yesterday, CFA and ATR sent a letter urging members of Congress to oppose H.R. 3357, a $7 billion bailout of the Highway Trust Fund.
Today, Senators Coburn and McCain voiced opposition to the bill, issuing a report that details the gross overspending and mismanagement of transportation funds that have consistently placed the Highway Trust Fund in the red. The report cites finding from a study by the GAO, which details the extent to which tax dollars are used for pet projects – over the past 5 years, it found that $78 billion has been allocated from the Highway Trust Fund for extraneous projects.
State Think Tanks Provide New Spending Transparency Resources
Since 2006, more than 20 states have taken legislative and/or executive action to create spending transparency websites where taxpayers can view how their governments are spending their money. However, in some states think tanks either are picking up the slack or complementing the government’s efforts by launching transparency portals to help taxpayers uncover how their states and/or local governments are spending their money. In the last week, a few notable websites have launched:
- Vermonttransparency.org – this site, launched by the Ethan Allen Institute, provides information on state spending and revenues, as well as expenditures by municipalities and school districts
- NCtransparency.com – the John Locke Foundation’s portal grades state agencies (including school districts and municipalities) on their spending transparency and offers budget information with links to the state spending website for a more detailed look at state expenditures
- DelawareSpends.com – this portal was created by the Caesar Rodney Institute and gives taxpayers a searchable, sortable database to research state spending and salaries, as well as expenditure data for school districts.
Deconstructing Wisconsin Governor Doyle's Blatant Budget Lies
ATR congratulates Governor Doyle and the Democrat led legislature for passing a budget on time for the first time since 1977. But, that’s about the only decent bit of news for Wisconsinites that has come out of this massive tax-hiking, big-spending, non-transparent, fiscally reckless budget.