Sandra Fabry

CFA to House: Oppose the "Doc Fix" Boondoggle


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009, 4:55 PM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

The U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on the so called "Doc Fix" bill tomorrow.  The bill is a poorly veiled attempt to sneak a big cost component of the Democrats' health overhaul past taxpayers, and CFA will be rating a vote against the bill in our annual Congressional ratings.

From our vote alert:

The Center for Fiscal Accountability urges all Members of the United States House of Representatives to vote against H.R.3961, the so-called “Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act,” which would constitute a costly permanent expansion of government without offsets in the form of spending cuts.
 
Just like the Senate bill Sen. Reid tried and failed to pass through the Senate last month, this bill is nothing but a poorly veiled attempt to sneak past taxpayers a massive healthcare-related cost that would otherwise have to be accounted for in the cost estimate for the already outrageously expensive government health bill passed by the House. 
 
Adding more than $200 billion over ten years to the burden taxpayers are forced to shoulder without any offsetting spending cuts is nothing short of reckless in light of the unprecedented spending spree the federal government has embarked on in recent months. After bailout after bailout and the failed “stimulus” package, it is time to say no to growing government even further on the backs of struggling American families.

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Will Sen. Reid Let Us Read the Bill?


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009, 4:23 PM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

After weeks of keeping it under wraps, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to unveil his health bill later today.  

We know it's going to be a costly package raising taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars and destroying private health insurance.  What we don't know at this point, is whether Sen. Reid is actually going to let taxpayers read the bill before taking any further action - e.g. holding a procedural vote to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill.

You may recall that all GOP Senators have asked for the bill to be posted online as soon as possible. Members of Reid's own caucus also sent a letter to him asking specifically for 72 hours of public review time prior to a vote to proceed:

Every step of the process needs to be transparent, and information regarding the bill needs to be readily available to our constituents before the Senate starts to vote on legislation that will affect the lives of every American. The legislative text and complete budget scores from the Congressional Budget Office (C.B.O.) of the health care legislation considered on the Senate floor should be made available on a Web site the public can access for at least 72 hours prior to the first vote to proceed to the legislation.

Yet it is still unclear what Sen. Reid will do.  If he was  to adhere to a 72 hour waiting period, the earliest a vote could occur would be Saturday evening, but there is speculation whether he wants to wrap the procedural vote up on Friday.   His response to the Senate GOP's letterwas pretty vague with regard to a timeline, saying that he

will make the legislation available to the full Senate and the American people prior to its consideration. There will be ample opportunity to examine and evaluate its provisions.

Note that this says "prior to its consideration" - not the motion to proceed to consideration - and who knows what "ample opportunity" is in the eyes of Sen. Reid.

Whether or not he will give American taxpayers enough time to read the bill, CFA is urging all members to vote against any motion to proceed to the bill, and will be rating a vote against such a motion in our annual Congressional ratings.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds

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ATR and CFA Join Sen. Thune in Calling for End of TARP Bailout


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009, 11:28 AM PERMALINK

As the end of the year - the original expiration date for the financial market bailout package - draws near, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) will be introducing legislation that would rescind the Administration's authority to extend the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which has morphed into an all-purpose slush fund, and has exposed, and continues to expose, taxpayers to huge costs and risks. 

It's time for the administration to stop putting taxpayers on the hook for politically motivated bailouts.  CFA and ATR have sent a letter endorsing the bill, and urging Sen. Thune's fellow members to co-sponsor and otherwise support it.  From our letter:

In spite of signs of a recovery of the financial markets, all indications are that the Administration will exercise its authority to extend the Troubled Asset Relief Program beyond its initial expiration date of December 31, 2009. The program, however, has far outgrown its scope and initial purpose and has been turned into an all-purpose bailout slush fund used for political expediency.

Your legislation would eliminate the authority granted to the Administration under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. In doing so, it would not only keep the unobligated funds under TARP – as of September amounting to $317.3 billion - from being wasted on politically-motivated bailouts of companies and industries well-outside the original scope of the program, which have left taxpayers to bear the cost and risks associated with them. It would also prevent the revolving use of repaid funds for these purposes.

James Madison once said “Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” It is time to end this “gradual and silent encroachment of those in power” of which the TARP program has become a tool.

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CFA to House: Vote "Yes" on TARP Accountability Bill


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Monday, November 16th, 2009, 3:34 PM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

The House will be voting on Rep. Maloney's and King's TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act (H.R. 1242).  CFA has been very supportive of the bill, and will rate a vote in support of the bill in our annual Congressional ratings.  From our vote alert:

The Center for Fiscal Accountability urges all Members of the U.S. House of Representatives to vote “yes” on H.R. 1242, the TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act.

The bill, which has been placed on the suspension calendar for this week, provides an important step towards greater transparency and accountability with regard to the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which, in spite of lofty promises, remain elusive.

Particularly as the program may well be extended into next year, it is all the more important that the Treasury Department be required to step up its oversight efforts with regard to TARP. H.R. 1242, which would create a comprehensive searchable database for relevant data to be made available to the Comptroller General, the Congressional Oversight Panel, and the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, would provide for exactly that.

While such disclosure directly to the American taxpayers is also necessary, swift passage of H.R. 1242 will provide an important step in that direction.

Click here for a pdf version of the alert.


ATR and CFA to House: Pass the TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Monday, November 16th, 2009, 11:49 AM PERMALINK

As a possible extension of the TARP program looms, the House is set to vote on a measure that will bring more transparency and accountability into the program this week.  An amended version of H.R. 1242, the TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act, which CFA, ATR and many other groups have been supporting, was placed on the suspension calendar for today, while votes are postponed until tomorrow.

The amendments tighten up the disclosure requirements, prohibit release of information that is prohibited from disclosure under Federal or State law or regulation, or considered proprietary, and sets a clear deadline of 30 days after the date of enactment for the Secretary of the Treasury to issue a request for proposlas and award contract services, and 180 days for the database to be operational.

ATR and CFA have sent a letter in support of the bill up for consideration this week. From our letter:

In spite of lofty promises on the part of the Administration, transparency and accountability in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) remain largely elusive, and have been a point of contention not only in public discourse, but also in recent reports issued by the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP). Especially in light of the likely extension of the program into next year, it is all the more important that the Treasury Department be required to step up its oversight efforts with regard to the implementation of the “Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,” and H.R. 1242 would provide for just that.

The fact that relevant data is currently widely dispersed over various agencies and in various formats hinders appropriate oversight efforts. H.R. 1242 would address this issue by requiring the consolidation and transformation of agency data, as well as other relevant information from other sources into a database hosted by the Department of the Treasury. This database would be made accessible to the Special Inspector General of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, the Comptroller General, and the Congressional Oversight Panel. A key component is the explicit requirement to provide ongoing, continuous, and close to real-time updates of the data available. Consequently, those tasked with monitoring the implementation of the program will be provided with a useful tool to better monitor and trace transactions, and thereby spot potential problems in a timely fashion.

While we continue to believe that even greater disclosure of who received TARP funding (from primary, over intermediary to final recipients) and relevant documentation of these transactions via a searchable online database directly to the American taxpayer is also necessary to provide full transparency and accountability, we are confident that swift passage of H.R. 1242 will be a major step in this direction, and we urge you to vote “yes” on the TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act.

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ATR and CFA Support the "Protect Taxpayers from ACORN Act"


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Friday, November 13th, 2009, 10:33 AM PERMALINK

Earlier this week, CFA and ATR sent a letter in support of the "Protect Taxpayers from ACORN Act" to Sen. Johanns, and are urging all Members of the Senate to co-sponsor and otherwise support the legislation, which would keep taxpayers' money out of the corrupt pockets of ACORN and other organizations engaging in voter fraud.

From our letter:

ACORN, which has a documented history of engaging in voter fraud, embezzlement, tax evasion, misuse of federal funds and other illegal activities, has been the beneficiary of the American taxpayer for far too long. According to a report by the Republican Staff on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the corrupt organizations that make up ACORN has received as much as $53 million from the federal government since 1994.

By prohibiting the federal government from awarding contracts, grants or other agreements to, and from providing other federal funds to ACORN and any other entity which has been indicted for or convicted violations of laws governing election administration or campaign financing, your bill would ensure that their fraudulent activities can no longer occur on the taxpayers’ dime.

Click here for a pdf version of the letter.

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Senate Budget Staff: House Dems' Fully Implemented Health Bill to Cost $3 Trillion


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Monday, November 9th, 2009, 12:19 PM PERMALINK

The following was originally posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org

This weekend, after casting previous no-tax-increase promises on the part of the President and transparency promises by Speaker Pelosi aside, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the Democrats' monstrosity of a health bill at a vote of 220 to 215.   One in seven Democrats and all but one Republican opposed the bill. 

Meanwhile, the Republican Senate Budget Committee staff has updated the cost estimate for the "fully implemented" House Democrat bill, and puts the cost at a staggering $3 trillion. From the press release they sent out:

Over the first 10 years, this legislation builds in gross new spending of $1.7 trillion – and most of the new spending doesn’t even start until 2014.  Once that spending is fully phased in, the House Democratic bill rings up at more than $3 trillion over ten years. 

Here's the breakdown.

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"Stimulus" Fuzzy Math of the Day: Saved 935 Jobs @ Place Employing 508


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Thursday, November 5th, 2009, 12:53 PM PERMALINK

The following was originally posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org

There are so many examples of "fuzzy math" when it comes to the "stimulus" jobs data, we thought it was about time to launch a series called

"Stimulus" Fuzzy Math of the Day.

Today's nugget was brought to us by the Associated Press, which had already found many flaws with the very first data set launched by the Recovery Board. The Administration defiantly claimed these types of errors would be avoided with the second set because the data was being scrubbed for errors. Yet, story after story calls into question the math behind the "jobs saved/created metric" - and so does the AP again:

President Barack Obama's economic recovery program saved 935 jobs at the Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, an impressive success story for the stimulus plan. Trouble is, only 508 people work there.

(...)

About two-thirds of the 14,506 jobs claimed to be saved under one federal office, the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services, actually weren't saved at all, according to a review of the latest data by The Associated Press. Instead, that figure includes more than 9,300 existing employees in hundreds of local agencies who received pay raises and benefits and whose jobs weren't saved.

Enough said.

photo credit: maubrowncow

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Sen. GOP: "Let Americans Read the Bill!" - Reid: "What Bill?"


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009, 4:47 PM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

A few days ago, all Senate Republicans sent a letter to Democratic Leader Harry Reid asking that he swiftly post the merged healthcare bill.  No response.  Until yesterday.  Sen. Reid sent a letter back to his colleagues claiming essentially that there is no bill yet - because no final decisions can be made until the CBO estimate comes back.  Reid goes on to assure his colleagues, that he 

will make the legislation available to the full Senate and the American people prior to its consideration. There will be ample opportunity to examine and evaluate its provisions.

(Note that he doesn't say how long the bill will be available, and what constitutes "ample opportunity" may lie in the eye of the beholder.)

But leaving that aside, Reid's claim that there is no legislative language yet strikes me as odd, because after all, he announced a deal at the beginning of last week - and sent the language to the CBO.  During the Senate Finance Committee deliberations, CBO Director Elmendorf said the following:

A formal cost estimate would require, we have said this to people on the house and senate side, would really require two weeks of work by us, once a package Is settled. And that may seem like a long time, but it - there are a lot of complications in doing this right, as you need it to be done and it is the interaction effects among the provisions, it is reading the legislative language. Our official cost estimates are based on reading of actual language, very complicated to write this language and to interpret it correctly, and that often involves a certain amount of iteration between us and the staff of the relevant committees.

So if the CBO is currently working to put together its final cost estimate, they have to have the language in front of them.  Whether or not Sen. Reid sent them three different options - the final language must be there, so why can't we see it?

TPMDC posted Reid's full letter here.

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Newspaper Stories Highlight Fuzziness of "Stimulus" Jobs Math


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009, 3:46 PM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

It's only been a few days since the latest set of "stimulus" jobs data was released - you know, the data that had been "checked and double-checked" by the administration - and already the stories blasting the fuzzy math in the latest data are piling up. 

Here's just the first batch:

We expect this to be just the tip of the iceberg.  After all, it will take folks a few days to sift through the data, but the "jobs saved/created" metric simply will not be able to stand up to critics, because especially the "jobs saved" part is completely fabricated, as Edward Lazear so aptly confirmed in yesterday's Wall Streed Journal.

Our verdict of the bogus "jobs saved/created" metric and the news set of data was pretty clear - read it here if you missed it.

If you've come across a story higlighting the fuzzy "stimulus" math in your state, feel free to send it to us at cfa@atr.org or post it in the comments section, we'll be collecting them all.


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