As part of the payroll tax bill on Friday, Congress voted to tweak federal worker benefits. New federal hires will be required to make an additional contribution to their pension plans. While just a small change, federal worker unions railed against the bill as if were armageddon.
The Washington Post did a great job last week comparing spending earmarks by members of Congress with the locations of property they own in their states. Some members are apparently using our tax dollars to expand infrastructure near their homes and businesses, thus gaining a personal benefit from federal spending.
The new federal budget includes a range of accounting maneuvers to cast the administration’s 10-year projections in the best possible light. Senate Republicans point out some of President Obama’s funky accounting here. But note that the George W. Bush administration also used tricks to make deficit forecasts look more optimistic.
President Obama is releasing his FY2013 budget today, and it’s more of the same—trillion-dollar deficits, huge spending, and tax hikes on high-earners. The president wants to raise taxes substantially on households earning more than $250,000. It’s all about fairness he claims, even though effective tax rates on high-earners are already double the rates on middle-earners.
Each January the Congressional Budget Office provides updated projections of the federal budget for the coming decade. Let’s compare the January 2011 projections to the January 2012 projections to see whether the switchover of the House to Republican control during 2011 has made a dent in spending.
One of the issues discussed in my new essay on the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the lobbying by groups of American Indians seeking official tribal status. The BIA has the power to confer tribal status, and it does so in a non-transparent manner. With official status comes tribal access to a wide range of federal subsidy programs plus the ability to earn monopoly profits with a casino. The gaining of official status for tribes was one of Jack Abramoff’s specialty services.
Like other government hand-out programs, the unemployment insurance system suffers from a substantial fraud problem. The Washington Post reports that 90 D.C. city employees and 40 former employees are being investigated for grabbing UI benefits to which they were not entitled. The cost of this fraud has been about $800,000 since 2009.
Economic variables are key drivers of the numbers in CBO’s budget projections. I noted last week that CBO’s new outlook assumes substantially lower interest rates, which appears to produce more than a trillion dollars of savings over the next decade.
It’s been a year since Republicans assumed control in the House in the wake of the 2010 elections, which were powered by Tea Party concerns about massive federal spending and deficits. With the more conservative House, has Congress made any progress on spending cuts yet?