Taxpayer Tricks and Treats for Halloween 2023 | Citizens Against Government Waste

Taxpayer Tricks and Treats for Halloween 2023

Press Release

October 13, 2023
For Immediate Release
October 13, 2023
Contact: Alexandra Abrams (202-467-5310)

(Washington, D.C.) - The frightful way President Biden and Congress have damaged taxpayers during 2023 necessitates the release today of Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CAGW) 24th annual compilation of its hair-raising, harrowing, and horrifying Taxpayer Tricks and Treats.  While Friday the 13th is frightening enough for some, there has been so much scary spending and so many repugnant regulations this year that there are more tricks and fewer treats than usual.


Trick: Net Neutrality Rises from the Dead

After fantastic improvements in connecting Americans to the internet following the death of the net neutrality in December 2017, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced she would be resurrecting this harmful, innovation-killing, and ghoulish regulation.  And this time it could be even worse than before, as she has raised the specter of rate regulation and government-imposed content moderation online.  This trick should frighten anyone who uses the internet on a daily basis.


Treat: Private Companies are Sweet on Broadband

Private companies continue to invest in broadband infrastructure to help turn the tide on connectivity across the nation.  According to US Telecom, “broadband providers have invested nearly $2.1 trillion since 1996 into the nation’s broadband networks with approximately $102.4 billion invested in 2022 alone,” which is the most ever.  However, like Alice in Wonderland, bridging the digital divide could fall down the rabbit hole if the government mandates a single technology, preferences government-owned broadband, or overbuilds in areas where service already exists.  That could create connections to nowhere and waste tens of billions of dollars.


Trick: The FTC’s Bloated Budget Request

The expanding Green Blob, also known as the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) budget request, will envelop and eat the entire economy.  FTC Chair Lina Khan requested a 37 percent increase of the green stuff from taxpayers to keep pushing her radical anti-competitive policies and waste more money losing court cases.  This nasty gelatinous monster not only leaves wasteful spending goo on the shoes of taxpayers but also earned Chair Khan the coveted Porker of the Month Award in September 2023.


Treat: FTC Chair Lina Khan’s Decisions Are Exorcised 

FTC Chair Lina Khan made one of the dastardliest decisions in the agency’s history by abandoning the 100-year-old consumer welfare standard in 2021, and she is alarmingly abusing antitrust powers.  She has led the FTC’s unfailing efforts to intimidate and terrorize businesses large and small throughout 2022 and 2023, opposing nearly every deal across numerous industries and reviewing long settled and previously approved standards and practices.

Luckily for taxpayers, Chair Khan’s anti-business and anti-consumer crusade has been exorcised by the court system.  In 2022, the FTC attempted to block Meta’s acquisition of virtual reality company Within but was struck down by a federal court in February 2023.  In July 2023, a federal judge sided with Microsoft and struck down the FTC’s attempt to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of video game developer Activision Blizzard.  Hopefully her efforts to regulate everything from privacy to non-compete clauses to artificial intelligence will continue to be rejected. 


Trick: Republican Hypocrisy Bleeding Taxpayers Dry with Earmarks

Although the House Budget Committee on September 19, 2023, released a budget plan that would balance the federal budget in a decade, Republicans are feeding at the trough by receiving 4,174 earmarks costing $7.4 billion, or 62 percent of the total so far in the fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills.  Of the top 30 porkers, 20 are on the Appropriations Committee, full committee chairs, or in the Republican leadership.  House appropriator Chuck Fleishmann (R-Tenn.) received $273.3 million, by far the most of any legislator, which made him an easy choice for CAGW’s August 2023 Porker of the Month.


Treat: Space Exploration and National Security Take Off With New Participants

The Department of Defense (DOD) was once reliant on the old guard of aerospace companies for the National Security Space Launch Program (NSSL), which is charged with launching into orbit the country’s most expensive military satellites.  After new technologies were developed to reduce cost and increase access, the DOD finally came on board and agreed to let those innovative companies take off.  Now, the DOD has created two “lanes” for the NSSL phase 3 solicitations that will allow new firms to participate alongside more established launch providers.  Other agencies that are active in space, like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, would do well to follow the DOD’s lead.


Trick: Congress Attempts to Raise Wasteful Engine from the Dead

Yet again, a handful of members of Congress are attempting to resurrect a buried second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.  Like the first version of the alternate engine, which was terminated in 2011, it is once again being opposed by the DOD, the White House, and taxpayer groups.

The alternate engine would be better described as Cerberus, the three-headed monster, since it does not fit into all the three versions of the JSF.  Its development would be far more costly than upgrading the existing engine, which is what the DOD has requested.  Yet, the House Armed Services Committee decided to ignore the facts and foolishly fund the alternate engine.  The effort was led by Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee Chairman Robert Wittman (R-Va.), who rightfully earned CAGW’s Porker of the Month award for July 2023.  The House’s Defense Appropriations Act, H.R. 5365 included $150 million for the alternate engine, stipulating that the funding should be used for the Next Generation Adaptive Propulsion program and not the F-35.  The Senate has thus far wisely abstained from adding funding for a second engine.  Congress should give the taxpayers a treat by following the guidance of the Biden administration and Pentagon officials and stripping any funding for the wasteful alternate engine.


Treat: Essential Prime Cuts Recommendations Included in Appropriations Bills

The House Appropriations Committee has clearly been reading CAGW’s Prime Cuts.  Approved by the committee on July 18, 2023, the FY 2024 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies  Appropriations Act includes five Prime Cuts proposals.  This legislation reduced Amtrak’s federal subsidy to $876 million, bringing the agency’s funding below its FY 2003 enacted level, cut funding for the Choice Neighborhoods program, saving $185 million in the first year and $925 million over five years; slashed the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grants program by $392 million; reduced the HOME Investment Partnership program’s budget to $500 million; and, rejected an amendment that would have restored funding for California’s shockingly expensive $120 billion High-Speed Rail project.  More treats should be in store in other appropriations bills.


Trick: President Biden Admits Scary Inflation Reduction Act Did Not Tame Inflation

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) is one of the most grossly misnamed laws and expensive tricks on taxpayers in history.  Even President Biden has admitted that the IRA misled taxpayers and will do nothing to bring down inflation.  He said the ghoulish bill, “has less to do with reducing inflation than it does to do with dealing with providing for alternatives that generate economic growth” and is “the most significant investment ever in climate change.”

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, by 2031, those making less than $400,000 will be devastated with more than two-thirds of the tax burden, including forcing them to subsidize Green New Deal programs that provide a tax credit of up to $7,500 to individuals making up to $150,000 and couples making up to $300,000 to buy electric vehicles.  From the $737 billion in tax increases in the IRA, $369 billion, or half of the total, will be spent on these dreadful programs.


Treat: House Passes the Limit, Save, Grow Act

Like a giant that just can’t be killed, inflation has continued to stomp on business and families because of reckless government spending.  The national debt continues to rise like a beanstalk and now exceeds $33 trillion.

In May 2023, House Republicans took a step to slay the spending giant and passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023.  It would cut the deficit by $4.5 trillion over 10 years, claw back unspent COVID-19 relief dollars, and rescind the wasteful spending included in the IRA.  It would also reinstate work requirements for welfare programs and reduce energy costs by including H.R. 1, the Lower Energy Costs Act, restoring American energy independence and limiting federal regulatory overreach.  This bill was a fa-boo-lous step to cut waste and save taxpayers money. 


Treat: House Passes REINS Act

The House handed taxpayers a delicious treat when they passed H.R. 277, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act in June 2023.  The frightening cost of regulatory compliance and federal intervention is $1.927 trillion annually according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The REINS Act would require major rules to go into effect only with the approval of Congress.  These rules include those that have an annual economic impact of more than $100 million or would create a major increase in costs or prices for consumers or individual industries.  The REINS Act would be a sweet reward for Americans and American-owned businesses by protecting them from unnecessary regulatory burdens.


Trick: Tennessee Titans’ Stadium Subsidy Terrifies Taxpayers

Taxpayer stadium subsidies keep rising like zombies from the crypt of terrible ideas.  Research consistently reveals how they fail to reanimate economic growth or attract new visitors.  Undeterred by the evidence, Nashville, Tennessee, in league with the state government, granted a record-breaking $1.26 billion subsidy to the treacherous Tennessee Titans, with $760 million extracted from Nashville taxpayers and the remainder from the state’s own goody bag.  Digging its own economic grave, the city will likely never generate sufficient revenue to recoup its deadly costs.

Nashville’s cross-state rival, Memphis, has also condemned hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to finance stadium renovations.  Nashville taxpayers will pay 42 percent of the cost of a new $1.26 billion Tennessee Titans stadium, while Memphis taxpayers will pay 51 percent of the cost of $684 million in renovations to the FedEx Forum, Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium, AutoZone Park, and construction of a new stadium for the Memphis 901 FC. 

Whether executed by a state or city government, the stadium subsidy scam ranks among the dastardliest deeds ever committed upon taxpayers. 


Treat: Congressional Republicans Lift the Curse of the Chamber of Budget Secrets

House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) raised a classic idea from the dead in September by unveiling a proposal to balance the federal budget in 10 years.  It would slash deficits by $16.3 trillion over that period, resulting in a $130 billion surplus by fiscal year 2033.  In addition to other provisions, the “Reverse the Curse” Act would cap the growth of discretionary spending at no more than 1 percent per year, saving $4.6 trillion over the next decade.  With such spending caps in place, lawmakers would be able to wave a magic wand to hack and slash the hordes of pork-barrel projects in the Congressional Pig Book and Prime Cuts in the bloated federal budget.

The bill’s other proposals would help vanquish the specter of wasteful spending, beat back the oozing blob of improper payments, and slay the menace of fiscal irresponsibility that has time and again reared its ugly head in the chamber of budget secrets.


Treat: Supreme Court Staves Off Student Loan Catastrophe

President Biden’s sinister scheme to pick up a broomstick and sweep away up to $20,000 in student loan debt per borrower was brought back to Earth in the June 2023 U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Biden v. Nebraska.  The administration’s plan would have cost taxpayers a spine-chilling $1.6 trillion over a decade.  The Court ruled that the secretary of Education lacked the authority to cancel student loans under the HEROES Act, a law passed in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and that any action to forgive student loans on such a broad scale would need to be approved by Congress.

Unfortunately, President Biden is pretending the Supreme Court’s decisions are ephemeral and is cancelling student loans right and left with the stroke of a pen.  Congress needs to put an end to his ongoing flouting of the law.


Trick: Price Controls Murder Innovation and Hurt Patients

Like Michael Myers, the serial killer in the Halloween series that keeps seeking new victims, the price controls that were supposed to die when the Build Back Better Act failed, were resurrected in the IRA.

The legislation increases the government’s evil control over the healthcare marketplace by allowing it to set poisonous price ceilings, which will devastate the research and development needed to treat and cure diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s and be deadly for patients.  The provisions of the IRA will result in the loss of 135 new drugs, “increase healthcare spending by $50.8 billion over the next 20 years … and generate a loss of 331.5 million life years in the U.S., 31 times as large as the 10.7 million life years lost from COVID-19 in the U.S. to date.”  Pharmaceutical companies have already stopped the development of new drugs directly as a result of the IRA.

This is not a sci-fi horror film that can be turned off when it gets too scary.  This is socialized medicine emerging and rearing its ugly head.  Price controls force pharmaceutical research and development down a dark and dreary path that leads directly into an invisible graveyard of patients.


Trick: Banning or Restricting Tobacco Harm Reduction Products Create a Dangerous Black Market

Legislative ghouls at the federal, state, and local levels, along with bogeyman bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration, continue to haunt and criminalize tobacco harm reduction (THR) products like vaping devices, heat-not-burn e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and snus with exorbitant excise taxes and restrictive flavor bans.  They all disregard evidence that these products are highly effective in helping adults stop smoking harmful and deadly cigarettes and reducing the number of people who will get cancer, emphysema, and other diseases they cause.  Imposing excessive taxes and limiting access will create a dangerous black market that will increase criminal activity and prolong the adverse impact of cigarette smoking.  Instead, THR products should be widely adopted to help smokers find new ways to quit.


Trick: Government Regulation into the Healthcare Marketplace is Straight Out of a Dystopian Novel

The plots of classic novels like 1984, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, and The Minority Report may seem unreal until everyone snaps back to the reality of the efforts to increase government control over healthcare.  One of the more pernicious plans includes fiddling around with the lifeline to quality care that is provided by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs).

PBMs administer plans for more than 275 million Americans who obtain health insurance from employers, unions, state governments, insurers, and other entities.  While the number of people PBMs serve is consistently growing due to their effectiveness, the $1,040 in annual savings provided to beneficiaries, and the lower-priced drugs they provide, Congress continues to open fire on PBMS by attempting to control and usurp these voluntary private-sector healthcare agreements.  

The costly and frightening consequences of failing to use a PBM were detailed in a March 31, 2023, Department of Labor Office of Inspector General Office of Audit report that showed $323.1 million more was spent over six years on pharmacy benefits than would have been spent if a PBM had been utilized.  The failure to do so also led to the issuing of “thousands of inappropriate prescriptions and potentially lethal drugs, including 1,330 prescriptions for fast-acting fentanyl after issuing a policy that restricted its use.”  Bills like S. 1339, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) PBM “reform” legislation would take power away from patients and turn it over to government bureaucrats, opening the door to price controls and market manipulation and moving the country closer to government-run/socialized healthcare.


Trick: The Attack on Natural Gas isn’t an Urban Legend

When Hansel and Gretel go walking through the woods in New York state, they won’t have to worry about being cooked up by a witch in her new candy-coated cottage if she uses natural gas to heat her stove.  New York Governor and Green New Deal lover Kathy Hochul (D), CAGW’s May 2023 Porker of the Month, signed a budget that made New York to become the first state to require all new residential buildings to use only electricity.  The ban on natural gas begins in 2026.

But this attack on natural gas isn’t stopping at the New York borders.  Household gas appliances are also on the chopping block in Washington, D.C., which would impact everyone across the country. 


Treat: Congress Wants Everyone to Turn on the Gas

After the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy both took steps toward banning gas appliances, there was a swift reaction from taxpayer groups and the House of Representatives.  On June 4, 2023, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste sent a letter to Congress supporting H.R. 1640, the Save our Gas Stoves Act, and H.R. 1615, the Gas Stove Protection and Freedom Act, to prohibit a federal ban on appliances, both of which were passed.  The House also passed legislation to prohibit states from banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles.  House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) commented, “The Biden administration is trying to use the federal government’s power to dictate every aspect of our lives from what kind of car we can drive to how Americans are allowed to cook food for our families.”  No one wants federal agencies to tell them what to use to cook their food not only on Halloween, but also throughout the year.


CAGW is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.



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