Crop Insurance Subsidies Prove Cutting Budget Is Easier Said Than Done

The New York Times By Jackie Calmes 11/26/15 WASHINGTON — In April, Republicans newly in control of Congress celebrated their agreement on a plan to save $5 trillion — that’s trillion, with a “T” — and balance the budget in a decade. “We continue to get things done for the American people,” boasted the House speaker at the time, John A. Boehner. Yet as the year closes, Congress instead is planning to repeal one of the few spending cuts it has passed into law since approving that budget resolution: $3 … Continue reading

The battle over President Obama’s trade deal has officially arrived

The Washington Post By David Nakamura and Mike DeBonis 11/5/15 The Obama administration released the full text of a 12-nation Pacific Rim free-trade accord on Thursday, launching what is expected to be a long and bruising fight to win final ratification in Congress for one of the president’s top priorities. A month after trade ministers reached agreement on the deal in Atlanta, the public will get its first look at the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an expansive pact that spans 30 chapters and hundreds of pages. After the … Continue reading

Disabled workers were overpaid $11 billion in Social Security over 9 years, watchdog reports

The Washington Post By Lisa Rein 11/2/15 One of the largest federal programs that provides cash benefits to disabled workers overpaid $11 billion during the past nine years to people who returned to work and made too much money, a new study says. The Social Security Administration, which runs the Disability Insurance program, gave up on recovering $1.4 billion of the excess payments because they were found to be the agency’s fault, not the workers’, the Government Accountability Office found. The program is on track for significant reforms in the two-year budget deal reached by Congress last week, changes designed to … Continue reading

U.S. Avoids Debt Default as Congress Passes Fiscal Plan (See how your Congressional member voted)

(This “Fiscal Plan” – Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 – with the vote of each member of Congress will be found here. – Admin.) Bloomberg.com By Terrence Dopp and Kathleen Miller 10/30/15 Bill goes to Obama for his signature before Nov. 3 deadline Agreement ends month of turmoil for House Republicans Congress passed a two-year bipartisan budget plan that avoids a default on U.S. debt, increases spending on domestic and defense programs and ends months of turmoil among House Republicans. The 64-35 Senate vote early Friday, following House passage two … Continue reading

White House, Congress reach tentative budget deal

Reuters.com By David Lawder and Susan Cornwell 10/27/15 A U.S. budget and debt ceiling deal headed toward quick action in Congress on Tuesday as lawmakers rushed to avert yet another fiscal standoff, which threatened to push the federal government into an unprecedented default early next month. House Speaker John Boehner told fellow Republicans he was clearing the way for a vote on Wednesday on the double-barreled measure, which would bust strict spending caps by $80 billion over the next two years in order to pump up defense and domestic programs. … Continue reading

Impacts and Costs of the 2013 Government Shutdown

(“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana)

Impacts and Costs of the Government Shutdown

By Sylvia Mathews Burwell
November 7, 2013

***
Summary: As the President has said, the shutdown that occurred last month inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy and took a toll on families and businesses across the country. Today, OMB is releasing a report that catalogs the breadth and depth of this damage, and details the various impacts and costs of the October 2013 Federal government shutdown.
***

As the President has said, the shutdown that occurred last month inflicted completely unnecessary damage on our economy and took a toll on families and businesses across the country. Today, OMB is releasing a report that catalogs the breadth and depth of this damage, and details the various impacts and costs of the October 2013 Federal government shutdown.

The report explains in detail the economic, budgetary, and programmatic costs of the shutdown. These costs include economic disruption, negative impacts on Federal programs and services that support American businesses and individuals, costs to the government, and impacts on the Federal workforce.

While the report covers a variety of areas, it highlights five key impacts and costs.

First, Federal employees were furloughed for a combined total of 6.6 million days, more than in any previous government shutdown. At its peak, about 850,000 individuals per day were furloughed. That number fell once most Department of Defense civilian employees were able to return to work as the Pentagon implemented the Pay Our Military Act.

Second, the shutdown cost the Federal government billions of dollars. The payroll cost of furloughed employee salaries alone – that is, the lost productivity of furloughed workers – was $2.0 billion. Beyond this, the Federal government also incurred other direct costs as a result of the shutdown. Fees went uncollected; IRS enforcement and other program integrity measures were halted; and the Federal government had to pay additional interest on payments that were late because of the shutdown.

Third, the shutdown had significant negative effects on the economy. The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the combination of the shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship resulted in 120,000 fewer private sector jobs created during the first two weeks of October. And multiple surveys have shown that consumer and business confidence was badly damaged.

The report highlights some of the more direct impacts the shutdown had on the economy by shutting down government services. For example:

  • Federal permitting and environmental and other reviews were halted, delaying job-creating transportation and energy projects.
  • Import and export licenses and applications were put on hold, negatively impacting trade.
  • Federal loans to small businesses, homeowners, and families in rural communities were put on hold.
  • Private-sector lending to individuals and small businesses was disrupted, because banks and lenders couldn’t access government income and Social Security Number verification services.
  • Travel and tourism was disrupted at national parks and monuments across the country, hurting the surrounding local economies.

Fourth, the shutdown impacted millions of Americans who rely on critical programs and serviceshalted by the shutdown. For example:

  • Hundreds of patients were prevented from enrolling in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Almost $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed.
  • Agencies from the Food and Drug Administration to the Environmental Protection Agency had to cancel health and safety inspections, while the National Transportation Safety Board was unable to investigate airplane accidents in a timely fashion.
  • Critical government-sponsored scientific research was put on hold. Notably, four of the five Nobel prize winning scientists who work for the Federal government were furloughed during the shutdown. 

Fifth, the shutdown could have a long-term impact on our ability to attract and retain the skilled and driven workforce that the Federal government needs. The shutdown followed a three-year pay freeze for Federal employees, cuts in training and support, and, for hundreds of thousands of workers, administrative furloughs earlier this year because of sequestration. These cuts will make it harder for the government to attract and retain the talent it needs to provide top level service to the American people.

The report makes clear that the costs and impacts of the shutdown were significant and widespread, and demonstrates why this type of self-inflicted wound should not occur again.

(Sylvia Mathews Burwell is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.)

Commentary: Should trail development be funded by the federal government?

Commentary
By Russ Phillips

Congress recently returned to Washington and is faced with several critical issues in the coming weeks, among them a Highway Transportation bill.

The Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) uses 2 percent of the federal Highway Account for trail development and other non-highway purposes. For FY 2015 this is $820 million.

Some may consider this an insignificant amount when total federal expenditures are considered. However, it is this thinking that has led to our federal government having an $18.3 trillion national debt. Just like a home budget, priorities must be established.

Trail development should be solely funded by state and local tax dollars, if at all. These levels of government are more accountable and more easily influenced by the citizenry than the national level.

Rails-to-Trails (RtoT), the leading advocate for trails in the nation, has 160,000 members and supporters and is aggressively lobbying for the continuation of the TAP. Forty-four percent of rail-trails in the U.S. have been built with federal support and more than 8,000 miles of former rail corridors “are waiting to be turned into great trails,” according to RtoT. In June a bill was introduced in the House that would have eliminated TAP. RtoT notes, “More than 12,000 supporters emailed your representatives and senators to oppose their bill—within 36 hours of our alert.” In July a Senate amendment was introduced to eliminate the TAP. You can be sure that this advocacy group is being heard on this matter. If you do not support TAP have you let your Senators and Representative know? RtoT has even stated, “…senators seeking to eliminate the program lack a constituency.” Really? I suspect that there are many, given the condition of highways, bridges and other infrastructure, that feel the federal gas tax should not be used for trail development. It is time for them to be heard.

Rail-to-Trails, also referred to as Rails to Trails Conservancy (RTC), is a client of two registered lobbyists in Washington, D.C.

What else is Rails-to-Trails saying?
…”Senate Bill Inadequately Funds Walking, Biking, but Provides Innovative Financing Options” (6/23/15)
…”Senate Passes ‘So-So’ Federal Transportation Bill. What’s Next for Trails?” (8/4/15)
…”Congress on Trails: Next Steps for Transportation Legislation” (9/17/15)

Do your Senators and Representative know your opinion on this matter? Are you part of Rails-to-Trails 160,000 members and supporters or do you feel differently about federal gas tax funds being used regarding trails?

The time to dust off shutdown, furlough plans is approaching

(After a 16 day shutdown in 2013 some members of Congress wanted it to continue longer. How did your member vote? Find out here. – Admin.) The Washington Post (use this link to see 108 “comments”) By Eric Yoder 9/9/15 With the first partial government shutdown in two years looking more likely, federal agencies may soon have to dust off plans that have lain dormant since then, while federal employees would have to re-learn the facts of furloughs. Shutdown contingency plans are on file for federal entities ranging from the AbilityOne … Continue reading

‘Coming to the House of Representatives From Silicon Valley Is Like Going in a Time Machine’

Welcome to the woeful world of technology in Congress. Politico.com By Andrew Zaleski 9/13/15 Speaking in New York in June, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) recounted the story of her election as chair of the House Republican Conference in 2012. The 46-year-old likened the conference to a 1950s law office, and listed her grievances: Most House members used social media like Facebook and Twitter, but only for posting boilerplate press releases instead of communicating directly with voters. To announce the conference’s new leadership team, she was told, it required “a … Continue reading

Congress, Don’t Isolate America Again Over Iran

Politico.com By Ambassador Samantha Power 8/26/15 While many members of Congress have declared their positions on the Iran nuclear deal, a significant number remain undecided. I and my colleagues in the administration have spoken to many of those still digging into its details, poring over the annexes and asking specific questions—questions like how long traces of uranium would be detectable after a hidden site was “cleaned up” (answer: many lifetimes over) or what the “snap back” of sanctions at the United Nations would mean for businesses that had already signed … Continue reading