CAGW Lists Taxpayer Tricks and Treats For Halloween 2016

For Immediate Release Contact: Curtis Kalin 202-467-5318
October 27, 2016  

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released the 16th annual compilation of scary, surreal, and spine-tingling taxpayer tricks and treats.  The following is CAGW’s list of nominees for inclusion in the Fiscal House of Horrors for 2016…

Trick:  Obamacare Death Spiral Has Begun – On October 24, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was forced to admit that premiums for benchmark insurance plans on the federal exchanges in 39 states will see an average spike of 25 percent, swamping taxpayers in the coming year.  CAGW has long sounded the alarm to taxpayers that the Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable.

Treat:  Megabyte Act Becomes Law – On July 20, 2016, H.R. 4904, the Megabyte Act was signed into law.  The act requires agencies to maintain software license inventories and find ways to optimize software usage to save taxpayer dollars, lowering the chances of mummified, wasteful technology spending.

Trick:  Zombie Earmarks Creep Back to Washington – Despite the congressional ban on earmarks in 2011, members of Congress have continued to find ways to raise pet projects from the dead.  The 2016 Congressional Pig Book chronicles this spreading virus, revealing 123 earmarks in FY 2016, costing taxpayers $5.1 billion.  Over the last two years, the cost of earmarks has risen by 88.9 percent over the $2.7 billion in FY 2014.

Treat:  Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA) Becomes Law – This sugary sweet piece of legislation permanently banned states from taxing Internet access.  After holding it hostage for months, Congress passed PITFA, and it was signed into law on February 24, 2016.

Trick:  The Battered Appropriations Process – Fiscal year (FY) 2017, which began on October 1, marked the 20th anniversary of the last time members of Congress were able to pass all of the appropriations bills that fund the federal government prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year.  In each year since, Congress has resorted to passing a continuing resolution (CR), which provides funding similar to the level of the prior year, making it nearly impossible to cut spending.

Treat:  Taxpayer Bailout of Puerto Rico Thwarted – On June 29, 2016, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was signed into law, burying any chance of a bailout.  Puerto Rico’s Governor Alejandro García Padilla was named CAGW’s May 2016 Porker of the Month for his role in pushing the island toward a fiscal cliff.

Trick:  The Walking Dead Ex-Im Bank Lives Again – Taxpayers thought the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank had drawn its last wasteful breath when its charter expired on June 30, 2015.  But in a horrific plot twist, Congress opened the crypt on December 4, 2015 and brought the bank back from the dead.  Now, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) is leading the attempt to provide increased lending authority with less accountability.

Treat:  Sequestration Remains Intact … For Now – Domestic discretionary spending continues to increase, but at a slower rate, due to the budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Even though members of Congress are scheming to eliminate the caps altogether and a ghoulish backroom budget deal allowed both parties to raise the caps by $80 billion over two years, the fact that a cap still exists is reason for cautious optimism.

Trick:  The Improper Payment Frankenstein Grows More Ominous – On April 6, 2016, the Government Accountability Office reported the amount of improper payments made with taxpayer money grew by a ghastly $12 billion, from $124.7 billion in FY 2014 to a record $136.7 billion in FY 2015.

Trick:  VA Scandal Rages On – The outrageous patient wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics nationwide have not waned since the issue burst into the public consciousness in 2014.  Worst of all, VA Secretary Robert McDonald minimized the wait times scandal, comparing it to lines at Disney theme parks.

Treat:  Court Smacks Down Executive Overreach at the FCC – On August 10, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) assertion that it could overturn state laws relating to municipal broadband deployment.

Treat:  Consolidating Data Centers Saves Taxpayers’ Loot – A March 4, 2016 Government Accountability Office report found that agencies have closed 3,125 data centers through FY 2015, saving taxpayers $2.8 billion.  These reductions were called for in CAGW’s Prime Cuts 2016.

Trick:  Local Officials Attempt to Bury Sharing Economy – At a time of fast-paced technological change in America and around the world, state and local officials such as Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R), seem intent on suffocating the innovative ride-sharing industry with targeted, malicious laws and regulations.  He signed a bill that would impose a hidden five-cent tax on every customer who uses these services. 

Trick:  The FCC’s Mandate from Hell – FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, doing his best emulate Mercury, the God of Communications (who also guided people into the Underworld), has issued a proposal on set-top boxes that would guide the telecommunications industry into a netherworld of confusing regulations that will eventually snuff out and suffocate innovation, leaving consumers and taxpayers in purgatory.  Just as consumers are able to view content on any device at any time, Wheeler wants to force them to buy new set-top boxes, on which their viewing habits would be mined for targeted advertising and the copyright protections of content providers would be compromised.

Trick:  Taxpayers Get Fleeced by Hospital Bailout – After recovery audit contractors (RACs) uncovered more than $2.1 billion in improper payments to hospitals around the country and the claims were twice judged to be valid on appeal by the hospitals, the third level of appeal was the charm.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threw in the towel and decided to hand out $1.47 billion, or 68 cents for every dollar in claims, to more than 2,000 hospitals, and the agency appears to be ready to hand out even more goodies with a new round of settlements.

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CAGW Names Rep. Elijah Cummings November 2017 Porker of the Month

Rep. Cummings is CAGW's November Porker of the Month for attempting to place price controls on prescription drugs.