CAGW Goes Trick-or-Treating

For Immediate Release Contact: Alexandra Booze 202-467-5318
October 28, 2014  

(Washington, D.C.) – Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) celebrates All Hallow’s Eve with its annual compendium of scary, grotesque, and spine-tingling examples of wasteful government spending.  The list of nominees for inclusion in this Fiscal House of Horrors was longer than last year, as it was difficult to unearth the full breadth of the mayhem.  So consider this as a shadow of the creepy crawlies lurking around corners and skulking down every dark stairwell, nook and cranny of the federal government.  Not one agency is free of the scourge of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.  Be very afraid...    

Trick:  Obamacare - The ghastly parade of horribles related to Obamacare continues unabated.  On March 11, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services announced a delay in federal Obamacare exchange enrollment and 2015 premium prices until after the elections.  Like the Walking Dead, there seems to be no end to the long line of politically-motivated machinations designed to hide the true depravity of the law.

Trick or Treat?  Are Earmarks Withering like Dorian Gray’s Portrait or Slithering Back in the Dark?  Even though Congress certified that the fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations bills were earmark-free according to its definition, CAGW found 109 earmarks costing taxpayers $2.7 billion, the second lowest amount since CAGW began tracking earmarks in FY 1991.  At the very least, the earmark moratorium has succeeded in decreasing the number and cost of earmarks under anyone’s criteria.  However, only a few of these 109 projects carried sufficient information to determine who requested the project and where the money was being directed.  Added to the fact that members of Congress are no longer required to add their names to earmarks, transparency in the appropriations process has been reduced immeasurably.

Treat:  Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository Is Alive!  And, in this case, that is good for taxpayers and utility ratepayers.  On October 16, 2014, after trying to bury it deep within the bureaucracy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its Yucca Mountain Safety Evaluation Report 3.  The report confirms that the Yucca Mountain, Nevada site meets all the NRC’s safety requirements for the safe long-term storage of the nation’s spent nuclear fuel.  The Department of Energy and taxpayers have oozed an estimated $20 billion annually because of the agency’s failure to comply with the law.  It is time to revivify the Yucca Mountain program.

Trick:  RACs on the Rack.  The highly successful Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC) program has rooted out and clawed back $8.9 billion in improper overpayments from Medicare providers since 2010.  Nevertheless, the RACs have suffered the assault of a thousand cuts, stalked relentlessly by hospitals (who prefer not to return improper overpayments), members of Congress (who are doing the hospitals’ bidding like sightless automatons), and some CMS officials, who have conspired to gut the program through the end of FY 2014.  RACs analyze millions of Medicare claims, identify those that have been paid erroneously, and retrieve the overpayments to replenish the Medicare Trust Fund.  Considering how critically important the program is to Medicare program integrity, one wonders if some of those out to degrade RACs have had half of their brains eaten.

Trick or Treat?  Export-Import Bank Gets Wounded; Now, on the Attack.  Unlike pop culture depictions of the Frankenstein monster, which was the grotesque result of crudely stitching together of disparate human body parts, the Export-Import Bank has, at least legislatively speaking, been severed from inclusion in any other “must-pass” legislative vehicle.  Although Ex-Im whistled past the graveyard when it was attached to omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2014, its new date with doom (June 2015) means that, as a standalone bill, this corporate welfare monster could finally meet the demise it so richly deserves.  However, when angry villagers came after Frankenstein’s monster with pitchforks, both the monster and its creator reacted badly.  And just like the mad scientist’s creature, Ex-Im loan recipients and their congressional allies are trying to drive the taxpayers back.  While the end of the Ex-Im Bank story has yet to be written, in every single version of Frankenstein, the monster dies.

Treat:  A Stake Through the Heart of MEADS.  Capping several years of bloated costs and underperformance, legislators finally stripped funding for the troubled Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) in the FY 2014 omnibus appropriations bill.  President Obama did not request funding for MEADS in his FY 2014 budget request, and members of Congress agreed, eliminating a program that has been roundly criticized.

Trick:  Harry Reid Stars as The Senate’s Montresor.  In Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” the vengeful protagonist Montresor lures his enemy down into dark catacombs with the promise of a rare bottle of wine.  There, he traps his victim, and gleefully bricks him up in a squalid niche for all eternity.  Harry Reid’s Senate has become a moldy subterranean tomb where legislation goes to rot in the dark, shrilly screaming to be released, never to be seen again.

Treat:  Sequestration’s Heart Still Beats.  Sequestration, in and of itself, won’t usher in a new era of fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C., and there are far better ways to save money.  However, it has proven to be the best thing that has happened for taxpayers in decades.  As long as the Congress’ Creepy Clowns don’t repeal the spending caps established in the 2011 Budget Control Act, domestic discretionary spending will continue to increase at a slower rate than it would otherwise.

Trick:  Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  The Department of Defense has cannibalized the parts from 16 G222 airplanes and sold them as scrap to an Afghan construction company.  The plan was to use the 20 G222 planes, which cost U.S. taxpayers $486 million, to equip the Afghan Air Force (AAF).  Somewhere along the line, it was determined that C-130 aircraft would be more suitable, so the DOD purchased four such aircraft for the AAF.  In order to “minimize impact on drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan,” 16 G222s sitting on the tarmac of the Kabul International Airport were sold as scrap to an Afghan construction company for a grand total of $32,000, or 6 cents per pound of scrapped metal

Treat:  The 2014 Wastebook.  Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has been one of the taxpayers’ most ardent defenders during his 16 years in Congress.  His annual “Wastebook,” published since 2010, is a compendium of terrifying transgressions against taxpayers.  This year’s tome uncovered 100 frightful expenditures costing $25 billion.  While Dr. Coburn will be laying down his sword and taking early retirement in January, 2015, CAGW plans to help prevent this taxpayer treasure from being buried alive and the federal government from goblin’ up the taxpayers’ green.  

Trick:  Special Delivery to the USPS Spook House.  The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has lost money in 20 of the last 23 quarters.  Instead of focusing on its core mission, it has taken to slinking around, trolling for new business ventures outside of mail delivery in areas that are already well-served by existing, private-sector businesses.  Its latest experiment is delivering groceries to Amazon customers in several western cities.  While the backroom financial details of the deal are under wraps, making sense of the USPS’ cost-allocation structure is like peering through a grimy window into a dilapidated spook house:  you never know what is going to pop up, but it is not going to be good. 

Trick:  Getting Snagged in the Web of Operation Chokepoint.  Taxpayers can be forgiven if they suffer from fiscal arachnophobia.  In some dank corner of the federal leviathan, bureaucrats from the Department of Justice, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the newly-minted Consumer Financial Protection Board are weaving a complex web to strong-arm banks who handle the electronic transactions for disfavored industries or companies, such as short-term lenders to gun dealers.  Indeed, no wrongdoing is necessary to attract the DOJ’s beady eyes, which is choosing its victims due to their “suspect” activities and “asking” banks to cut them off.

Trick:  Information Superhighway to Hell.  On April 30, 2014, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he firmly believes “the FCC has the power – and I intend to exercise that power – to preempt state laws that ban competition from community broadband.”  Aside from the questionable constitutional grounds for his claim of federal supremacy over state laws, including a 1996 Supreme Court case that held the FCC does not have the authority to overrule state laws regulating how municipal governments engage in telecommunications services, Chairman Wheeler is ignoring the ample competition for broadband access.  More than 1,600 private-sector companies provide broadband access throughout the U.S., which is one of many reasons that 20 states have seen the light and restricted or prevented the construction of municipal broadband systems.  These states know that government-owned networks are frightfully expensive, often compete directly against existing private sector businesses, and frequently fail.  Wilson, North Carolina and Chattanooga, Tennessee have taken Wheeler at his word and filed petitions asking the FCC to overturn the state laws in their respective communities in order to allow them to expand their existing municipal broadband networks, despite state laws that prohibit them from taking such action.  Should Wheeler’s view prevail, the information superhighway will be filled the wreckage of failed municipal broadband projects, and “insurers” (taxpayers) will be left holding the bag for a hellacious amount of damages.  

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